Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Friday that he had filed criminal charges against Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop following an alleged drunk and reckless driving incident on March 16.
The charges Suellentrop, a Republican from Wichita, is facing include a DUI, reckless driving, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, speeding, and a felony attempt to elude the police.
“I think [Suellentrop] needs to resign,” said Ryan Reza, president of the Kansas Young Democrats. “I think that it's absurd that Republicans are staying quiet, and I wholeheartedly believe he will resign; it's just a matter of time.”
According to the report, Suellentrop exceeded the 65 mph speed limit, driving 90 mph on the wrong side of I-70. He also had a BAC greater than the legal limit of .08.
Following the incident, an audio recording of a 911 call that night was publicized. In it, a driver detailed his alleged experience with Suellentrop in which a white SUV almost hit the driver.
“They were in the wrong lane and met me coming up the on-ramp and scared the crap out of me,” the caller said.
On Monday, a rally at the statehouse in Topeka calling for Suellentrop’s resignation gathered more than 25 people from across the state of Kansas. So far, none of Suellentrop’s Republican colleagues have called for his resignation.
“They’re waiting until it's politically convenient, and I think that's extremely disrespectful to the people of Kansas, but then, most importantly, it's disrespectful to rule of law in the state,” Reza said.
Political science professor Patrick Miller said Suellentrop is generally less likely to face political consequences because voters may be more forgiving due to his political status.
“For many average people, we have employers who can fire us easily under certain circumstances,” Patrick Miller said. “Politicians are employed by voters, who must choose to kick that politician out of office. And Suellentrop doesn't face voters again until 2024.”
Suellentrop and other politicians’ ability to avoid political consequences in these instances is something Zach Miller, a junior political science major, also recognized.
Miller questioned what would happen if Suellentrop decided not to resign because of his status as a high-ranking Republican in Kansas, comparing it to Andrew Cuomo’s recent opposition to resigning as the governor of New York.
“I think a lot of it comes down to how powerful that person is,” Zach Miller said. “If you’re a freshman congressman or woman—if there’s a big scandal, you’ll probably get [challenged]. But if you’re the Speaker of the House, you’ll probably survive it.”
A warrant for Suellentrop’s arrest was filed on Friday, and he turned himself in later that day before posting a $5,000 bond. Suellentrop’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 3.