(Updated to correct vote total in majority leader race to 18-11)
Senate Republicans on Wednesday elected Larry Alley as their new majority leader to replace Gene Suellentrop, who was forced to leave the post after he was charged with drunk driving and eluding law enforcement.
Alley, a conservative from Winfield, defeated Sen. Jeff Longbine of Emporia 18-11 in the second round of balloting on the final day of the legislative session.
Alley prevailed in the first round of balloting as well, winning 13 votes compared to nine for Longbine and seven for Sen. Richard Hilderbrand of Galena.
Republican state Sen. Renee Erickson of Wichita was elected assistant majority leader. She replaces Alley. She had no opposition.
Republican Sen. Rick Kloos of Berryton nominated Alley. Sen. Virgil Peck of Havana nominated Hilderbrand. And Sen. Kristen O’Shea of Topeka nominated Longbine.
The race for the second most influential position in the Senate was seen as fluid because Alley had not necessarily been seen as a strong leader despite his conservative credentials.
In recent days, however, Alley was being talked up as the favorite.
Longbine, meanwhile, was seen as more of a moderate influence in the Senate where he has supported Medicaid expansion in the past.
In campaigning for the position, Alley talked about the need for “restoring confidence in the caucus.”
“With change in leadership comes opportunity for improvement, there are a couple of areas which I think can be improved,” he wrote in his letter to the Repubican caucus.
“One is communication. As the leader of the caucus I believe in an open-door policy where all members of the body should have access,” he wrote.
“The other is input from committee chairs and vice chairs as to bills they value as important and would like to see above the line.”