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Archive for Saturday, May 22, 2004

Majority leader says goodbye to Senate

May 22, 2004

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— Majority Leader Lana Oleen announced Friday that she would not seek re-election to the Senate this year.

Oleen, of Manhattan, is the second Republican leader in her chamber to announce plans to leave the Legislature. President Dave Kerr, of Hutchinson, announced he was not seeking another term just before legislators adjourned May 8.

"At this time, I have made the decision to channel my interests and energy in a different direction," Oleen said in a statement issued by her office.

Oleen, 55, was elected to the Senate in 1988 and re-elected three times. Fellow Republicans named her their majority leader before the 2001 session.

Before being named majority leader, Oleen served eight years as chairwoman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, gaining prominence in that role because the panel handles liquor, gambling, gun and abortion legislation.

Oleen was an advocate for increasing spending on public schools and sometimes was at odds with fellow GOP senators who opposed increasing taxes.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Oleen's departure would be significant.

"Lana is going to be missed as both a capable leader and as a good friend," Sebelius said. "She is someone with a great deal of passion about education and opportunities for children in our state. Between Lana and Bill Reardon, the Legislature is losing an enormous amount of institutional knowledge and a lot of passion about education."

Reardon, D-Kansas City, is retiring from the House after 30 years in office.

In her statement, Oleen said her legislative experience was a "cherished experience."

"My challenge to legislators and future Legislatures is to put policy above political posturing, priorities of people before personal agendas and resolve above rhetoric," Oleen said in her statement.

In addition to Kerr and Oleen, Republican Sens. Bill Bunten, Topeka; Bob Lyon, Winchester; Ed Pugh, Wamego; and Robert Tyson, Parker, are not seeking re-election.

Also announcing plans to leave the House were Reps. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe; Bill Mason, R-El Dorado; Melvin Minor, D-Stafford; Vern Osborne, R-St. George; Doug Patterson, R-Leawood; and Dan Williams, R-Olathe.

Reps. Rob Boyer, R-Olathe; Jeff Goering, R-Wichita; Dan Thimesch, D-Cheney; and R.J. Wilson, D-Pittsburg, have announced plans to seek other offices.

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