|Majority Leader of the Kansas Senate|
January 11, 2021 – April 9, 2021
|Preceded by||Jim Denning|
|Succeeded by||Larry Alley (acting)|
|Member of the Kansas Senate|
from the 27th district
|Assumed office |
January 11, 2017
|Preceded by||Leslie Donovan|
|Member of the Kansas House of Representatives|
from the 91st district
January 9, 2013 – January 10, 2017
|Member of the Kansas House of Representatives|
from the 105th district
January 14, 2009 – January 8, 2013
|Born||January 1, 1952|
Colwich, Kansas, U.S.
Gene Suellentrop (born January 1, 1952) is a Republican member of the Kansas State Senate, representing the 27th district since January 11, 2017. He served as the Senate's Majority Leader beginning in January 2021 but after being arrested for intoxicated driving in March 2021 was removed from that position by a caucus vote in April 2021. Before being elected to the state senate, he had served two terms in the Kansas house, then was elected to the senate in 2016.
Suellentrop created the Gambino's pizza parlor franchise, later retitled, The Sauce Brands. By 2000, he had licensed 63 regional franchises in five states, including 40 in Kansas. When Wichita area franchisees discovered the corporation, G.P.A, Inc., had been surreptitiously receiving kickbacks from required suppliers, they sued it for damages involving alleged breach of contract and antitrust violations in a class-action lawsuit. In November 2011 he also complained, in his presidency of the Kansas chapter of the National Restaurant and Hospitality Association, that the Obama Administration dictated an "unprecedented intrusion" by ordering workplaces to display an 11" by 17" poster that informed employees of their right to unionize.
Suellentrop was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013. He was elected to the state senate in 2016, taking office in 2017. Suellentrop represents northwestern Wichita and rural areas to the west and north of his district. As the senate's Majority Leader, Suellentrop opposed Medicaid expansion and rejected the efficacy of wearing of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 16, 2021, Suellentrop was arrested by Capitol Police. The numerous allegations included both suspicions of driving under the influence and fleeing from a law enforcement officer, a felony, after a ten-minute Interstate 70 freeway chase in which he was driving on the wrong side of the interstate. He had evaded one nail strip by driving around it but was stopped by another which punctured his tires. Rather than resigning his caucus position, he said most of his duties would be temporarily assigned to the Assistant Leader, Larry Alley, "...until matters that I am currently dealing with are resolved." His statement avoided addressing those allegations against him. On April 9, Kansas state senate president Ty Masterson, requested that Suellentrop step down from his leadership post as the body reacted to new details regarding Sellentrop's arrest on Interstate 70. Suellentrop's blood alcohol content was allegedly more than double the legal limit. Then the majority caucus required Suellentrop, who had departed from Topeka for Wichita on the evening of April 8, to return to the capitol to cast the deciding vote on a controversial education funding bill. Masterson said, "Obviously consequences need to come, it is a matter of time." "I do think when emotions are high you don't make your best decisions. But I think it's clear the majority leader needs to vacate the leadership office." More rank-and-file Republican senators showed frustration as Suellentrop's legal difficulties impeded the last days of the legislative session. Republican senator Rick Kloos demanded that the caucus vote on Suellentrop's future the next morning, April 9th. Masterson said that it wasn't possible yet, but that GOP members would discuss the matter the next day. Kloos said he had discussed matters with other members, who shared his frustration with the previous day's events. It was undetermined if a vote to resolve the issue would be on April 9th, or in the following month when they would return to conclude legislative business. Kloos said he desired rapid resolution of the issue so the senators could get closure. "It's just time. We've all been patient." The Shawnee County District Attorney had refiled charges against Suellentrop, which included felony eluding law enforcement and misdemeanor driving under the influence. New court filings and the arresting trooper's testimony alleged the senator narrowly avoided at least two near-collisions with oncoming motorists and had made physical threats as his blood was tested for alcohol. He said he had called him "donut boy," and that the 69-year-old said he could "take" the trooper in a physical fight. In Suellentrop's absence, senators invoked a procedural move that would force all 40 senators to vote on a critical education bill that was lacking a single vote for passage. It seemed Suellentrop would have been forced to cast the deciding vote until legislators postponed further debate until April 9th. Masterson defended his pushing to secure Suellentrop's vote, pointing out that he was still a sitting senator despite his legal difficulties, saying the events had significant effects on the Senate's regular order of business, and his behavior had provoked "unnecessary anger, unnecessary power plays." Suellentrop returned to the capitol, but the vote on the education bill failed by a one-vote margin.
On April 9, Suellentrop was removed from his position by his Republican caucus. The deciding factor was reported to be the release of the arresting trooper's affidavit. Suellentrop's blood alcohol content was 17%, more than twice the legal limit despite having been taken three hours after his arrest, and only provided due to being compelled by a search warrant from the court. The caucus vote, taken in his absence, was 22-4 in favor to "non-retain" him. Alley will continue to assume his duties and inherit Suellentrop's Majority Leader's staff until the legislature reconvenes in May. Suellentrop had been collecting the added pay of $487 bi-weekly even though he had surrendered most of his duties.
Suellentrop and his wife Christine reside in Wichita. They have had four children, Matt, Daniel, Sarah and Tony.
- Gambino's franchisees allege breach of contract, fraud, Wichita Business Journal, David Dinell, July 24, 2000. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Restaurant Industry Faces Full Plate of Regulations in Washington, D.C., Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Fourth Quarter 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Gene Suellentrop, Kansas Legislature, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- Gene Suellentrop's Biography, Vote Smart. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
- Kansas Senate GOP leader turns over some duties after arrest regrets the 'distraction', Kansas City Star, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- Kansas Senate Republicans oust leader from post amid wrong-way drunk driving charges, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, April 9, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
- Kansas Senate GOP leader booked into jail, released, on allegations of DUI, fleeing officer, Kansas City Star, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- Kansas Senate GOP leader turns over some duties after arrest, regrets the 'distraction', Kansas City Star, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
- Top Senate Republican: Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop should step down from leadership role, Topeka Capital-Journal, Andrew Bahl, April 9, 2021. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
- Kansas Senate GOP leader still paid $487 biweekly allowance after turning over duties, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, March 30, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2021.