Cancer in remission, Susan Wagle announces run for Senate’s top job

An energized Sen. Susan Wagle announced Tuesday that she’s cancer-free and ready to make a run for president of the state Senate.

Wagle, R-Wichita, made the announcement at a fund-raiser at the Flint Hills National Golf Club in front of a crowd of donors and politicians including Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Jerry Moran.

Wagle spent much of the summer undergoing chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the body-cleansing lymphatic system. It’s the second time Wagle’s survived a battle with lymphoma, although the strain of the disease she faced this time was different than the one she faced in 1996.

Wagle passed on a chance to seek the Senate presidency in 2004 to care for a son who was afflicted with leukemia.

Wearing a black cap to cover the hair loss caused by her chemotherapy, Wagle got an enthusiastic ovation when she announced that her cancer doctor gave her a clean bill of health last week.

“I finished my last treatment four weeks ago,” she said. “I did all the … tests to see how everything was going just two weeks ago, and he just told me that I am in complete remission.”

Wagle is being challenged by Democrat Patrick Cantwell in the 30th Senate District. The general election is Nov. 6.

Wagle appeared confident of winning and said she is excited to return to Topeka and work with the governor on an agenda of lower taxes, smaller government and reduced regulation of businesses.

A longtime Brownback ally, Wagle praised the governor’s tax plan that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

The new law reduces tax rates and entirely eliminates state taxes on income from limited liability companies, farms, sole proprietorships and corporations organized under Subchapter S of the federal tax code.

“It is going to grow the economy and it is going to be good for Kansas and people are going to have more money in their pockets,” Wagle said.

Wagle also praised the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries executives Charles and David Koch for providing campaign finance support that wiped out moderate Republicans across the state in the August GOP primary, giving conservatives control of both houses of the Legislature and the governorship.

“We had difficulty getting it (the Brownback tax plan) through the Kansas Senate, because we’ve had some leadership in Kansas that preferred to work with (former Democratic Gov.) Kathleen Sebelius,” Wagle said.

Brownback said he was inspired by Wagle.

“Susan is fabulous,” Brownback said. “She really is inspiring to me for what she’s gone through and how she’s maintained through all this, and maintained a real strength and dignity and beauty through all the trials and tribulation that she’s been through.”

Moran recounted how he had worked with Wagle in the state Legislature, before he went on to the US House and then the Senate.

“Never was there ever a more clear voice of more certain conviction and yet a person more willing to work and to have a conversation to solve our state’s problems,” Moran said.

State Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, said he has abandoned his own plan to run for Senate president in favor of supporting Wagle.

“Susan’s fine,” he said. “I’m going to run for vice president.”

Donovan, chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee, said he had orginally considered going for the top job himself because he was angry with the way that Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, had handled the tax bill in the Legislative session.

But Morris won’t be returning to the Capitol as a senator, voted out of office in the primary election that swept away most of the Senate moderates.