TOPEKA – Incoming senate Republicans elected Wichita Sen. Susan Wagle as their chamber’s new president with 23 of 32 votes Monday.
Wagle became the chamber’s first woman president, and her election signals the senate has shifted farther to the political right after being led by moderate Republicans for several years.
Wagle, who represents a wide swath of east Wichita, was elected to the House in 1990, and she won a seat in the Senate in 2000.
Senate Republicans also unanimously selected Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Reno, as their majority leader and Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, as their vice president.
Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, was elected as assistant majority leader in senate with 22 votes. Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, was elected as Senate Assistant Majority Leader Whip with 21 votes.
Wagle’s primary competition came from Arkansas City Republican Sen. Steve Abrams, who received nine votes.
Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies helped conservative Republicans oust eight moderate senate Republicans in the August primary. Brownback and other conservatives viewed moderate Republicans as a roadblock to their efforts to eliminate income taxes and change how appellate court judges are appointed.
Brownback now appears to have all the support he needs to push through his agenda, with a 32-8 Republican advantage in the Senate and a 92-33 majority in the House. That’s the same party make up as the 2012 session, however the new batch of senate Republicans are markedly more conservative.
It was the first time senate Republicans conducted their leadership elections in the senate chambers. Typically, it’s done in a smaller conference room. Prospective senate leaders barred media from being on the senate floor during the secret ballot used to select leaders.
Wagle announced her bid for senate president in October during a fundraiser with Gov. Sam Brownback. That came after she underwent chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma over the summer. She said she is now Cancer-free.
Wagle acknowledged she is the first woman to be elected senate president, but she focused more on being the first senator from Wichita to become senate president. And she said her election may provide hope for other Cancer patients.
“This is a wonderful moment for me,” she said.