KHI News Service

Wagle elected Senate president; Merrick to be House speaker

By Mike Shields | December 03, 2012

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, was elected by a wide margin today to the presidency of the Kansas Senate.

She defeated Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican.

When Wagle assumes the post in January, she will become the first woman to serve as leader of the Kansas Senate.

Rep. Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, was tapped to become House Speaker after two rounds of balloting in a tight race against current House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican.

Merrick had previously served as House majority leader and was credited with helping build the overwhelming Republican majority in the chamber. Merrick later was appointed to the Senate. In November, he was re-elected to the House.

Rep. Lance Kinzer also was nominated for the speaker position but only got 13 of the 92 GOP caucus votes in the first round of balloting and so was pushed out of the race.

Siegfreid received the most votes, 41, in the first round but the rules required a majority vote to become speaker. Apparently some of the votes previously committed to Kinzer went to Merrick in the second round and Merrick won the top post, 49-43.

KHI News Service

Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita

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During House leadership elections Monday, members used a wooden ballot box made by the late Rep. Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican who died in an auto crash at the end of the 2012 session.

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In a day spent largely in leadership elections, members also chose Rep. Jene Vickrey, R- Louisburg, over Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, to be House majority leader. That vote also was 49-43.

Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, was selected speaker pro tem. Reps. Richard Proehl, R-Parsons, and Steve Brunk, R-WIchita, also were nominated by couldn't come close to Mast's support. Proehl subsequently made a motion for Mast's choice to be unanimous, seconded by Brunk, and the motion was passed.

"She's a woman who lives conservative values," Rep.-elect John Barker, R-Abilene, said in his speech nominating Mast.

In the Senate, Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, was chosen vice president and Sen. Terry Bruck, R-Hutchinson, was elected majority leader.

Top Democratic leadership in the two chambers was unchanged. Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, will be the Senate minority leader. Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, will remain minority leader in the House and Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City will continue as assistant minority leader. Rep.-elect Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, was chosen as House minority whip.

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement congratulating the new legislative leaders and promised to work with all of them.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback's chief spokesperson, said: "The governor remained neutral in all of the leadership races. He endorsed no one."

In other action today, freshmen legislators began two days of orientation.

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