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Sen. Wagle elected president of the Kansas Senate; Merrick new House speaker


Topeka — The Kansas Senate took a hard right on Monday as Republicans elected Susan Wagle as the next Senate president to complete the conservative takeover of state government.

State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, on Monday awaits vote in the Senate. Wagle was elected Senate president by the Republican caucus.

State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, on Monday awaits vote in the Senate. Wagle was elected Senate president by the Republican caucus. by Scott Rothschild

Wagle speaks with colleagues after her election as Senate president on Monday.

Wagle speaks with colleagues after her election as Senate president on Monday. by Scott Rothschild

Wagle, R-Wichita, whose victory makes her the first woman to lead a chamber in the Kansas Legislature, has been a staunch conservative voice for 22 years in the Statehouse and in the middle of many conservative-moderate fights within the Republican Party.

In 2003, Wagle made national headlines alleging improprieties in a human sexuality class at Kansas University. An investigation by KU concluded that the charges were unfounded.

Wagle will replace moderate Republican Steve Morris, who was among a group of moderates defeated in the Republican primary by a conservative blitz led by Gov. Sam Brownback, the billionaire Koch brothers and Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

On Monday, conservatives in the Senate elected their people in all leadership positions. No moderates were even nominated.

When the Legislature convenes Jan. 14, Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, will be majority leader, and Jeff King, R-Independence, Senate vice president. They will join House leaders already firmly in the conservative ranks. Wagle defeated fellow conservative state Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, in a 23-9 vote.

After her election, Wagle, who has survived several bouts with cancer, said the vote for her “brings hope and encouragement to an awful lot of people who want a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

How far right will the Senate go?

Later, she said the budget will be the dominant issue of the next legislative session.

Because of Brownback’s tax cuts, which includes eliminating income taxes for 191,000 businesses, the state is facing an estimated $328 million revenue shortfall next year.

“My greatest concern is the budget deficit we’re facing and how we’ll resolve that, and I think that will clearly dominate the session,” she said.

Wagle said a big factor in fixing the state budget will be what the federal government does to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and budget cuts.

She said making history as the first woman elected Senate president was nice, but added, “I don’t think that was why I was elected.”

Republicans hold a 32-8 advantage over Democrats in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the new Republican leaders are more conservative the current ones. “It just remains to be seen how far right they will go,” he said.

He said conservatives will be divided on some issues, such as undocumented workers, where the tea party wants tough restrictions that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce opposes.

“I don’t think it’s a given they will walk in lockstep,” Hensley said of conservative Republicans.

Of Wagle, he said, “I’ve admired her independent streak in the past. She is her own person,” he said. But, he noted, they differ on many issues, mentioning her push for anti-union legislation.

Senate Democratic revolt

Hensley faced a revolt in his eight-member caucus from state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.

The first ballot for Senate minority leader was tied 4-4 and then Hensley won 5-3 on the second ballot. State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, challenged state Sen. Laura Kelley, D-Topeka, for assistant minority leader and won.

On the House side, Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, won a three-man race for speaker to replace Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, who retired from the Legislature to lead the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, was elected majority leader.

Republicans hold a 92-33 edge over Democrats in the House. State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, was re-elected House minority leader.

Because the House speaker and Senate president are mentioned in the state constitution, Republicans’ selections must be ratified by each chamber once the Legislature convenes the session, but that’s traditionally a formality. House leaders will hold their jobs for 2013 and 2014, but Senate leaders will retain them through 2016.

Wagle has history

Wagle has fought moderate Republicans in several highly publicized issues.

In 2000, as chairwoman of the House Taxation Committee, Wagle launched an investigation into then-Attorney General Carla Stovall’s hiring of her former law firm to work on litigation against tobacco companies.

In 2003, Wagle went to the floor of the Senate and alleged a Kansas University professor showed pornographic videos, rationalized pedophilia and harassed female students in his human sexuality class. But an investigation by KU said the allegations were unsubstantiated.

And last year, Wagle questioned the operations of the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Later, the agency’s chief executive officer resigned.


blindrabbit 5 years, 6 months ago

The State of Kansas continues it's drift to piddlearseness on the national front, as the state has been taken over by right wingnuts. I wonder where most of the old-time moderate GOP'ers have gon,e, if sane, maybe they joined the Kansas diaspora, moving somewhere where sanity rules. It will be interesting (albiet discouraging) to see where the State ends up after 10 years of this conservative nonsense. And to think, Kansas was at one time a place of common sense and moderation.

verity 5 years, 6 months ago

Said it before, will say it again.

These people are not conservatives. They are radical regressive reactionaries. If this continues, we will end up like serfs in the middle ages.

Dan Eyler 5 years, 6 months ago

I look forward to the new leadership. Reducing government spending and increasing job opportunity for those who want to work should be the goal of the new leadership. We need an environment that brings business to the state. Agriculture will be huge all across the Midwest. We need to capitalize on our energy development including wind. Small businesses need help and they will get it with new income tax changes kicking in. We need to identify core government services and manage those but reduce the expectation there are endless government benefits and those with that expectation need to move on. The Kansas taxpayer can't afford to take care of everyone's problems as we do today. There are plenty of states willing to take care of those who want more than Kansas is willing to offer. We need to encourage some to catch the next bus out of Kansas.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

Topeka — The Kansas Senate took a hard right on Monday as Republicans elected Susan Wagle as the next Senate president to complete the conservative takeover

---excellent. funny how the feministi don't celebrate this great milestone, because they're actually trapped on the democrat plantation.

Kansas becomes an opportunity state that much more.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

If you think that just because Wagle is a woman that feminists will support her, think again. I don't know a single feminist that isn't aware that there are members of their own gender perfectly willing to sell other women down the river in exchange for power in the male establishment. (Michele Bachmann comes to mind as well as Cheryl Sullenger.) This is no "milestone" to celebrate. Wagle is a pearl cluthcher more than happy to grind other women under her high heel. It was specifically for women like her that Madeline Albright said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 6 months ago

"She" is a woman??Anybody check this out? The Koches maybe???

verity 5 years, 6 months ago

I find it interesting that those who criticize feminists for not supporting someone just because they happen to be a woman are the same ones who denounce that kind of thinking in other areas.

Be it known that feminists support equal rights for all. Even some men are feminists---yes, really. (That last sentence was meant to be sarcastic---I know that all decent men support equal rights.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

The fact that you believe she shares your misogyny fully explains why anyone not in the Attila the Hun wing of the Republican Party isn't celebrating.

lucky_guy 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't think you have anything to fear "faithful". Since Wagle will outlaw sex in Kansas there won't be any extra Kansans to worry your head about. The population will die off or move out and all that will be left will be the post office boxes of the LLC's and partnerships will have at the Topeka post office to claim as their headquarters so to get tax refunds from the state. Just like Delaware, you know the state you are always hearing about? The headquarters of all those corporations and they are just....wait you don't remember the last time you heard of Delaware, me neither.

jimmyjms 5 years, 6 months ago

Kansasfaithful, you realize that Americans are currently taxed at the lowest rate since 1980? And you want people to leave Kansas?

The ignorance is astounding.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 6 months ago

And the "slippery slope"is inclined more and more. The governer and his facist regime has scored one more for the Koch Reich.

Most of the rest of the country has slam-dunked the facist republican tea baggers, but bleeding fflyover Kansas has mired itself deeper into the ""conservative" fraud. We are already the laughing stock of the country due to the idiocy of our Secretary of theState with his unvarnished crusace to obstruct voters who may not vote for the sacred GOP crap.The governer has made himself well-known and dedicated to the obstruction of federal law.

How does it happen that a seemingly well-heeled and educated populace let itself fall into such a chasm of foolishness and stupidity??

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