A Kansas Republican who once suggested that undocumented immigrants be shot from helicopters has lost his bid for a leadership position.
Rep. Virgil Peck (R-Tyro) lost his bid for assistant majority leader in a 63-29 vote to Rep. David Crum (R-Augusta) during a caucus meeting in Topeka Monday. Peck made headlines in March 2011 when he suggested during a state House Appropriations Committee meeting that the best way to reduce the undocumented immigrant population in the state was by using gunmen in helicopters. The same practice is used to reduce the feral hog population in rural Kansas.
Peck explained at the time that his constituents were upset about the immigration issue. Peck made the comments around the same time that Kansas legislators tabled an Arizona-style immigration bill in the state. That bill was authored by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). Kobach told the Baldwin City Signal last week that he expects immigration-related legislation to come up in Kansas in 2013.
Peck's remarks drew criticism from the Latino community and an online petition signed by 54,000 demanding his resignation.
Peck lost votes between the first and second ballots for the assistant majority leader's post, with the Republican receiving support from 34 GOP lawmakers on the first ballot, which also included Rep. Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center).
Peck's defeat comes as Kansas legislators pick leaders following an election marked by a rise in conservative members in both houses of the state legislature. In the Senate, Sen. Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) was picked to be the chamber's new president, replacing moderate Republican Steve Morris, who was defeated in an August primary. House Republicans picked incoming Rep. Ray Merrick (R-Stillwell), an outgoing state senator, as the new speaker, replacing Republican Mike O'Neal, who is retiring to become president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Merrick, a former House majority leader, left the House for the Senate in 2010.
Legislative Democrats reelected House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka).