|President of the Kansas Senate|
January 14, 2012 – January 11, 2021
|Preceded by||Stephen Morris|
|Succeeded by||Ty Masterson|
|Member of the Kansas Senate|
from the 30th district
January 8, 2001 – January 11, 2021
|Preceded by||Barbara Lawrence|
|Succeeded by||Renee Erickson|
|Member of the Kansas House of Representatives|
from the 99th district
January 1991 – January 8, 2001
|Succeeded by||Todd Novascone|
|Born||September 27, 1953|
Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Education||Wichita State University (BA)|
Susan Wagle (born September 27, 1953) is an American politician who served as a Republican member of the Kansas Senate, representing the 30th district from 2001 to 2021. She was elected Kansas Senate President in 2013 and was reelected in 2017. She is the first woman to hold this position.
Wagle was born on September 27, 1953, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 1979, she graduated with a B.A. from Wichita State University. Wagle taught special education in Wichita public schools from 1979 to 1982 before becoming a businesswoman.
Kansas House of Representatives (1991–2001)
Kansas Senate (2001–present)
In 2003, Wagle drew national attention when she attempted to have a human sexuality class at the University of Kansas defunded due to the professor's alleged display of pornographic material. Then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius "vetoed a budget proviso to withhold more than $3 million from KU if the class materials were found to be obscene, but signed a second one directing universities to draft policies on the use of explicit sexual materials".
Wagle was elected senate president on December 3, 2012, winning 23–9 over then-Senator Steve Abrams of Arkansas City. Wagle's win was a victory of the conservative wing of the Kansas Senate over the Senate's moderate wing. She is the first female Kansas senate president, and the first senate president from Wichita. She was re-elected to the post in 2016, defeating Ty Masterson by a vote of 23–7, becoming only the fourth senate president in Kansas history to serve a second term.
In July 2018, Wagle supported Kris Kobach in a Republican gubernatorial primary, saying that he was the "strongest candidate". The endorsement was sent out by Wagle's staff spokeswoman on a state computer, thus violating Kansas ethics rules.
Wagle once "halted a controversial bill that would have enabled public and private employees to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds".
On May 29, 2019, nine protesters had been singing and chanting in the Senate chamber. When they refused to stop, the Senate suspended its work; Wagle ordered that the Senate gallery be cleared. Following Wagle's request, the protesters were detained and taken to another room. The Wichita Eagle's Jonathan Shorman reported that journalists were "'prevented from witnessing the arrests'". Calling Wagle's action "unprecedented" and "intolerable", the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government filed a complaint with Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Wagle countered, "'[A]t no time was the press denied access to Senate proceedings. My staff was simply following instructions during a time of recess to ensure the safety of everyone in the chamber'". Attorney General Derek Schmidt later determined the Senate was within its authority to clear the gallery and that an investigation did not indicate any business was conducted while members of the press were absent.
In February 2020, Wagle sought to block the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid to 150,000 Kansans, by linking it to an anti-abortion amendment to the state's constitution. Wagle routed all 11 House-passed bills on the Senate's debate calendar as well as returning two Senate health care bills back to committee, declaring that no House-passed bill on any subject would clear a Senate committee until the abortion measure is placed on the ballot. For her action, she was rebuked by the number two member of the senate, Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Kansas City-area Republican. He had worked with Governor Kelly to craft the bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan. He said Wagle's tactics were crafted "without my input" nor did they reflect his plans, continuing, "Her statements are obstructive and not how we should be governing."
At the end of the Spring 2020 legislative session, Wagle held the senate in session for 24 straight hours, passing bills to curtail Governor Laura Kelly's ability to exercise emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic and blocking an attempt to pass the expansion of Medicaid. The legality of the legislature's actions was disputed.
Lt. Governor candidacy (2006)
Jim Barnett, who served in the Kansas state Senate from 2001–2009, ran in the 2006 Kansas gubernatorial election with Wagle as his running mate. They won a crowded Republican primary by almost 10% of the votes. Although a large majority of Kansans are Republicans, their ticket received only 40.44% of the votes in the general election, losing to incumbents, Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson. Barnett ran for governor again in 2018., but lost the primary.
In 2018, when Wagle sought an appointment to a diplomatic post she listed Wichita native and Las Vegas billionaire Phil Ruffin, a casino partner of President Donald Trump, as a reference just days after she voted for a bill beneficial to Ruffin’s business interests in Kansas. Wagle sought an ambassadorship to Ireland, Belize, or Belgium, or other State Department positions. She made her aspirations known in a May 7, 2018 email to a campaign operative shortly after the legislative session ended. Wagle wrote, "I'm thinking it's an excellent time," to leave Kansas politics while requesting that the operative forward her cover letter and resume which included Ruffin as a reference, to an administration official. The request followed ten days after Wagle voted to establish an avenue for racetrack casinos to operate in Kansas, a change sought by Ruffin, the owner of both Wichita's Greyhound Park and The Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas. Wagle had opposed prior efforts to hold a new County vote to permit slot machines at the Wichita Greyhound Park which Sedgwick County voters had turned down in 2007. Ruffin had threatened to close down the park after the initiative was defeated.
Wagle had said, "Those of us who oppose gaming don’t have millions of dollars to fend off Mr. Ruffin every time he wants to push a ballot initiative." Her campaign spokesman wrote that Wagle’s change in voting for the 2018 gaming bill came "after meeting with Mr. Ruffin and other leaders in the Wichita business community and after learning about the uneven tax treatment that had been leveled on the industry. Tax fairness and tax equity is a top concern for Senator Wagle." When interviewed, Ruffin said Wagle would make a good U.S. senator, dismissing the contention that her position change regarding expanded gaming led to his support. Wagle's pitch for such an ambassadorial post came weeks after Wichita Republican congressman Mike Pompeo received U.S. Senate approval as United States Secretary of State in April 2018. Wagle's campaign spokesman said Pompeo did not have a role in promoting her candidacy to the White House: "While she does not recall speaking to Secretary Pompeo about her interest in serving in the Administration, she did reach out to the President's team and some of their mutual friends, including Phil Ruffin, in this process."
U.S. Senate campaign (2020)
In January 2019, Wagle formed an exploratory committee to assess entering the 2020 race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, to fill the seat of the retiring Pat Roberts. In July 2019, she formally entered the race, and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had already done so. Wagle criticized Kobach's role in a controversial, privately-financed scheme to build a southern border wall to impede the unlawful entry of migrants to the United States. Wagle expressed support for the construction of a federally designed, bid and funded wall, but added, "We don’t need some rogue organization going out and building the wall." Wichita and Las Vegas billionaire and casino business partner of Donald Trump, Phil Ruffin, has been supportive of Wagle's U.S. Senate campaign. In April 2020, Mike Kuckelman, the chair of the Kansas Republican Party, urged Wagle to drop out of the U.S. Senate race, due to her weak fundraising. She had about $515,000 in unexpended campaign funds. Wagle persistently polled in the single digits in 2020.
In a statement, Wagle said she withdrew her candidacy before the candidate filing deadline , in favor of party unity, her work in the Kansas Legislature addressing the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic crisis, and to spend time with her family after the recent death of her daughter who had 4 young children and had relapsed with Multiple Myeloma.
Other political involvement
Wagle served as a delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention. She served as National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2006. As of 2019, she was a member of ALEC's Board of Directors.
While Wagle identified as pro-choice as a young adult, the experience of pregnancy led her to change her stance. She is considered a staunchly pro-life legislator.
In 2003, Wagle "successfully pushed a bill to require abortion clinics to provide information on human development to women considering an abortion".
In 2015, Wagle sponsored a bill known as the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. It would have prohibited a person from performing, or attempting to perform, a dismemberment abortion unless it was necessary to preserve the life of the mother. The law was found unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court.
Wagle opposed the confirmation of David Toland as Kansas Secretary of Commerce in 2019. As director of a local non-profit, Tolan had obtained a grant from a charitable fund posthumously named after George Tiller, an assassinated physician who had performed abortions. The grant funding did not relate to abortion; however, Wagle's spokesperson, Shannon Golden, called the relationship with the Tiller fund "concerning". Toland was later confirmed.
In 2020, Wagle linked unblocking passage of a bill to expand Medicare in Kansas to passage of a constitutional amendment that prohibited abortion.
Wagle and her husband own bingo halls, and she had long opposed expansion of other gambling in Kansas. Six months after receiving a contribution of $1,000 to her 2018 state senate campaign from Ruffin, the owner of Kansas racehorse and greyhound tracks, she reversed her position. Since that time, Ruffin has scaled up his support. He gave her $1,000 more for her state senate campaign, then contributed $5,000 more, the maximum allowable in federal campaigns, to her 2020 primary for the U.S. Senate. Asked about the contributions by a McClatchy newspaper reporter, Ruffin became angry and ended the call.
In October 2020, a video surfaced in which Wagle encouraged Republicans to win a supermajority in the state legislature so that they can draw a gerrymandered map in favor of Republicans in coming elections. In response, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly asked the state legislature to form an independent redistricting commission.
In 2018, Wagle cosponsored legislation with Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley that worked to bring more transparency to state contracts. The bill required lobbyist registration for anyone attempting to influence officials in state agencies or the executive branch over a state contract. Prior to the enactment of this legislation, lobbying efforts were only required to be disclosed if such efforts were directed toward the legislative branch. Wagle stated the need for this legislation arose due to a lack of transparency within the administration of Republican former Governor Sam Brownback.
As Commerce Committee Chairwoman, Wagle began an investigation into the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) in 2011. The KBA was founded under former Governor Kathleen Sebelius with the goal of spurring growth in the bioscience sector. The KBA had an independent board that approved spending. Wagle called for an investigation due to excessive spending on salaries, benefits, travel, and entertainment. Wagle noticed a stark difference between the state's 12-year investment and its final return. The state had invested $240 million into the KBA. The legislature and Governor Sam Brownback intended to fill budget holes left by massive tax cuts benefitting the wealthiest Kansans by selling the KBA for $25 million and slashing budgets for highways, schools and Medicare. The sale of the authority netted only $14 million. Wagle called for an audit and review for the abuse of taxpayer dollars which ultimately led to the shutdown of KBA for findings of misspent funds. The legislature passed a $1.2 billion tax increase and overrode Brownback's veto of the measure. Wagle cast the deciding vote to override but did not comment on her vote.
Wagle has blocked Governor Laura Kelly's efforts to Medicaid coverage in Kansas. Wagle sought to tie expansion to passage of an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution, leading Kelly to call Wagle’s actions "immoral."
In April 2020, Kelly instituted orders to restrict the rapid spread of COVID-19, limiting public gatherings to a maximum of ten individuals. Since the orders would have applied to Easter Sunday masses, the Republican-majority (5–2) Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) reversed her orders as applied to church assemblies. Wagle opposed Kelly's orders and supported the Republican attempt to block them, saying that "Governor Kelly’s orders display her misplaced priorities." Of the initial eleven identified sources of contagion in Kansas, three were identified as having come from recent religious gatherings. Forty-four state governors had imposed similar restrictions, with 18 states closing churches completely. As a precedent, Kansas churches had been ordered closed during the 1918–1919 "Spanish Flu" pandemic.
Kansas challenged the LCC's decision in court, saying that the council and Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt had "weakened and confused our emergency response efforts, putting every Kansan at risk." The Kansas Supreme Court reinstated Kelly's orders, saying the LCC's reasoning was "flawed," and it did not have the power to overrule the governor.
Sexual harassment reform
After former Democratic staffer Abbie Hodgson complained about widespread harassment and inappropriate requests from legislators, Wagle said that in five years as senate president, she had never received any such complaints. Subsequently in 2017, Wagle worked to implement changes in sexual harassment policies at the Kansas Capitol. Those changes included mandatory training sessions, anonymous reporting, and protections for interns.
Supreme Court appointment process
Wagle has expressed disagreement with State Supreme Court decisions and has attempted to change the process for nomination and confirmation of justices. In 2013, Wagle voted with 27 of her colleagues for a constitutional amendment that would change the nomination process for Kansas Supreme Court justices from the existing system in which the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission identifies three candidates, of whom the governor selects one, to the "federal model" where the governor nominates a candidate and the Senate votes to confirm the nominee.
Wagle is married to Tom Wagle. The Wagles, who reside in Wichita, have four children, and Susan Wagle has three step-children. As of July 2020, the Wagles had 16 grandchildren.
Wagle survived bouts with cancer in 1995, 2003, and 2012. Her son, Paul, survived leukemia during his childhood. In March 2020, Wagle's daughter, Julia Scott, died from multiple myeloma after a four-year battle with the disease.
- "Our Campaigns – KS State House 099 Race – Nov 03, 1998". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Shockers in the legislature, Wichita State University. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- "Powers of persuasion: Susan Wagle seen as one of Kansas' shrewdest politicians". Wichita Eagle. January 3, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Candidates seek seat as Kansas governor". Nevada Daily Mail. July 30, 2006. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Sen. Susan Wagle first Wichitan elected Senate president". Wichita Eagle. December 3, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Ranney, Dave (March 25, 2013). "Senate president prefers options remain open on Medicaid expansion". Kansas Health Institute. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "Wagle to file for U.S. Senate seat". KSNT.com. July 23, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- "Senator Susan Wagle – President of the Senate". Kansas State Legislature 2013–2014. Kansas Legislative Information System and Services. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Susan Wagle, GOP leader of Kansas Senate, launches bid to replace Pat Roberts in 2020, Wichita Eagle, Bryan Lowry, July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- Shorman, Jonathan (December 5, 2016). "Susan Wagle wins re-election as Senate president". The Hutchinson News. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Wagle’s endorsement of Kobach violated ethics rules, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, September 26, 2018. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
- "Unprecedented" Sunshine Coalition files complaint after reporters driven from Senate, WIBW-TV, Nick Viviani, May 29, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
- Association, Kansas Press. "AG dismisses KOMA complaint". The Cowley CourierTraveler. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
- Hanna, John (February 7, 2020). "Kansas anti-abortion measure fails; Medicaid plan targeted". ABC News. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Kansas anti-abortion measure fails; Medicaid plan targeted Republican lawmakers in Kansas have failed to get a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution on the ballot, ABC News, John Hanna (AP), February 7, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
- Gov. Laura Kelly declares Legislature’s 24-hour marathon 'embarrassing, irresponsible' abuse of process, Capital Journal, Tim Carpenter and Sherman Smith, May 22, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
- Kansas Secretary of State Candidate 2006 General Election, Kansas Secretary of State, 2006. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
- Jim Barnett announces run for Kansas governor, KSNW, Ryan Newton, June 19, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
- Laviana, Hurst; Dion Lefler (August 7, 2007). "With slots out, Ruffin says he'll close track". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
- Wagle, eyeing diplomatic post, enlisted Trump friend after vote to aid his gaming interests, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman and Bryan Lowry, February 20, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
- Susan Wagle, weighing bid for U.S. Senate, says she will form exploratory committee, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, January 9, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
- Kansas GOP official urges 2 candidates to exit Senate race, Hays Post, April 23, 2020.
- , Kansas City Star, January 19–20, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
- National Republican Committee, Wall Street Journal, October 21–23, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
- Leadership, American Legislative Exchange Council. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
- Kansas lawmakers flock to ALEC meeting, Shawnee Dispatch, Scott Rothschild, August 12, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
- Kansas Supreme Court Rules State Constitution Protects Right To Abortion, National Public Radio, Dan Margolies and Celia Llopis-Jensen, April 26, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
- "SB 95 – Bills and Resolutions – Kansas State Legislature". www.kslegislature.org. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- In Commerce nominee’s hometown, residents take sides in bitter confirmation fight, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman and Lara Korte, March 31, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- "After bitter fight, Kansas senators confirm Gov. Kelly's pick to lead commerce agency". Wichita Eagle. April 1, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Capital-Journal, Titus Wu, The Topeka. "Wagle's redistricting comments draw scrutiny". Morning Sun. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
- "Senate President Wagle embraces gerrymandering to benefit Kan. GOP". Hays Post. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
- Kite, Allison. "Kansas Senate president proposes transparency measure for executive branch". Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- "Supplemental Note on Senate Bill No. 394" (PDF). www.kslegislature.org. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
- Kite, Allison. "Kansas Senate president proposes transparency measure for executive branch". Retrieved June 23, 2020.
- Audit finds Kansas Bioscience Authority’s former leader misspent funds, destroyed documents, Wichita Eagle, Dion Lefler, January 23, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- "Kansas Bioscience Authority officials' raises, bonuses scrutinized". Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- Gov. Brownback’s proposed budget fix includes sweeps from transportation, children’s programs, Kansas City Star, Bryan Lowry, January 13, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- Here’s what Bioscience Authority’s portfolio sold for, Wichita Eagle, Bryan Lowry, December 16, 2016. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- Brownback Tax Cut Era Ends With Kansas Legislature’s Veto Override, KCUR, Celia Llopis-Jepson, June 7, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- Kansas Governor Kelly Ramps Up Campaign To Separate Abortion Politics From Medicaid Expansion, KCUR, Jim McLean, March 3, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- War over Easter: Kansas lawmakers revoke Gov. Kelly’s order limiting church gatherings, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, Amy Renee Leiker and Michael Stavola, April 8, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
- Kansas Supreme Court says executive order banning religious service of more than 10 people stands, KMBC, April 11, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Kansas has 3 church-related COVID-19 clusters, state says amid scramble for supplies, Wichita Eagle, Jonathan Shorman, April 6, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
- Kansas coronavirus update: Gov. Laura Kelly takes fight over church crowds to Supreme Court, Capital Journal, Sherman Smith, April 9, 2020. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
- Harassment at Kansas Capitol: Staffer says she was told 'nothing was going to change', Kansas City Star, Bryan Lowry and Hunger Woodall, October 25, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
- "Political opposites raising awareness of #MeToo in the Kansas Legislature. But is anything changing? – KLC Journal". May 4, 2018. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- "Kansas City group offers ideas to rid Kansas Capitol of sexual harassment". Retrieved October 29, 2018.
- Eagle editorial: Don’t change courts, Wichita Eagle, Rhonda Holman, January 29, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Shorman, Jonathan. "Kansas Senate President Wagle's daughter, 38, dies from cancer". The Wichita Eagle. McClatchy. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- Kansas Senate
- Project Vote Smart profile
- Follow the Money campaign contributions
| President of the Kansas Senate