Rep. Virgil Peck, a colorful lawmaker from southern Kansas, will seek a seat in the Kansas Senate.
Peck, R-Tyro, who has served in the Kansas House since 2005, will run for the seat in Senate District 15 in southeast Kansas.
The seat is held by Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, who announced last week that he plans to leave the Legislature, citing frustration with his colleagues’ unwillingness to address the state’s fiscal problems.
Peck said King’s decision to leave the Legislature caught him by surprise and that after several days of reflection, he decided to seek the seat.
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Peck voted against the budget passed by the Legislature last week, saying it spends too much money and relies on too much one-time money.
One of the focuses is to get the state budget so we’re not borrowing or shifting money. My focus is always going to be: Let’s just reduce spending or, at the minimum, not increase it.
Rep. Virgil Peck, who is running for a Senate seat
“One of the focuses is to get the state budget so we’re not borrowing or shifting money,” Peck said. “My focus is always going to be: Let’s just reduce spending or, at the minimum, not increase it.”
Peck is the only Republican to announce for the seat so far. The filing deadline is June 1.
Chuck Schmidt, the former superintendent of the Independence school district, also seeks the seat as a Democrat. He said he has known Peck for many years and gets along with him personally but that they “disagree on just about everything.”
Schmidt, who retired as superintendent last year, said he sat down with both Peck and King and warned them not to vote in favor of the 2012 income tax cuts, which he blames for the state’s budget problems.
“I was looking forward to retiring and taking it easy, but I’m a lifelong Kansan and I’m just sick about what’s happening to our state,” Schmidt said. “So that’s why I decided to run.”
In his message last week, King expressed regret for voting for the bill, which cut taxes across the board and eliminated income taxes for some business owners.
Peck has become well known in the House for his penchant for colorful garments; he frequently sports purple, orange or green suit coats. He said he would continue this if he’s elected to the Senate, which is typically considered the formal chamber of the Legislature.
“I’ve had several people – and I’m not going to name names, because they may not appreciate it – but several people say, yeah, we need a little levity in the Senate. They need to loosen up a little bit,” Peck said. “So I will still be Virgil Peck no matter if I’m in the House or the Senate.”
Peck faced national controversy in 2011 when he joked during a committee hearing that a proposal to shoot feral hogs from helicopters would also work as a solution to illegal immigration. He later apologized for the remark.