Gene Suellentrop ousted from Senate leadership post after DUI charges as caucus support erodes

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, speaks with reporters after voting to remove embattled Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop from his leadership post.

Sen. Gene Suellentrop was removed from his leadership position Friday night, just hours after the top officer in the Kansas Senate called on him to permanently relinquish his duties.

The move comes a day after court documents show Suellentrop allegedly taunted and threatened the Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who stopped him for driving under the influence on the wrong side of Interstate 70 in Topeka last month.

These details, and others, have caused his support within the caucus to erode in recent days, with Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, calling on Suellentrop to step down from his post Friday morning.

More:Documents: Gene Suellentrop taunted and challenged KHP officer; blood alcohol level twice the legal limit

Legislators voted 22-4 to eject him from his leadership post during a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans minutes after the chamber adjourned until the beginning of May.

The fact that Suellentrop did not resign was disappointing, Masterson said, and he acknowledged it would be "awkward" working with him going forward in the caucus.

"These are just heavy issues," Masterson said. "We become friends with people in these chambers on both sides of the aisle ... It is kind of a sad day when you see that."

Suellentrop was not present at the caucus meeting and did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Previously Masterson had said a decision would not be made until after Suellentrop's first court appearance in June. 

More:District attorney charges Gene Suellentrop with alleged DUI, eluding law enforcement

But Sen. Rick Kloos said the unsealing of the affidavits Thursday, which revealed Suellentrop's alleged comportment on the night of his arrest, was what prompted a sea change among his colleagues.

The freshman senator from Topeka pushed for his GOP colleagues to take action during a closed-door caucus Friday morning and he said the fact that it came to fruition was a relief.

"It is closure," Kloos said. "We did the right thing."

Senate Republicans voted to remove Sen. Gene Suellentrop from his leadership position during a closed-door meeting Friday. He is pictured here shortly after his arrest for alleged driving under the influence and attempting to flee law enforcement.

More:Top Senate Republican: Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop should step down from leadership role

Members will allow Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley, R-Winfield, to continue as the acting floor leader until the final day of session in late May, at which point members will select a new majority leader. Multiple senators are said to be interested in the post.

The majority leader has a presence on multiple key panels, including the Legislative Coordinating Council and the State Finance Council, who have a major say in the state's COVID-19 response, among other matters. Those positions will remain vacant until a permanent leader is selected.

The meeting Friday does not resolve the lingering question of whether Suellentrop will resign his Senate seat. Masterson said the decision on whether or not he continues to represent the 27th Senate District.

"The chamber has no business determining who represents his district," Masterson said.

More:Gene Suellentrop to relinquish some leadership duties a day after booking for DUI, fleeing police

Suellentrop was stopped and arrested in the early morning hours of March 16 after driving the wrong way on Interstate 470 and then I-70 for upwards of 10 minutes.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced on March 26 he had refiled charges against the lawmaker, which include felony eluding law enforcement and misdemeanor driving under the influence.