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Republican state senator from Kansas resigns mid-term
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A state senator from Kansas who became known for his outspoken conservative views resigned late last month.
Steve Fitzgerald (R) represented the state’s 5th district for five years before announcing his retirement in September.
Fitzgerald, whose second term was set to expire in January of 2021, said that he wanted to give his replacement time to prepare to hold the seat in 2020.
“I think it’s important that we hold this seat in 2020 and I wanted to give the next guy a chance to get his feet on the ground and get going,” Fitzgerald said.
Kansas senator resigns
Fitzgerald’s retirement came a month after he lost a congressional primary to represent the state’s 2nd district to Steve Watkins. The senator finished fourth in the contentious August race, in which Fitzgerald had described Watkins as a “liberal.”
“In the Army, it’s up or out, you get promoted or you get out,” Fitzgerald, an army veteran, said. “I didn’t get promoted, so it must be time to get out.”
Watkins beat Fitzgerald to the punch on announcing his retirement from the senate with a press release mentioning his former opponent’s departure. Fitzgerald, 73, said he didn’t know how Watkins knew he planned to resign.
“I wish Steve all the best in his retirement and thank him for his commendable leadership over the years,” Watkins said in the release.
“I don’t know where the hell he got that,” Fitzgerald said. “…How the hell did he find out?”
He added, “I really don’t appreciate (Watkins) being my press agent.”
A replacement will be selected by Republican committeemen and women from the 5th district at a convention, and Governor Jeff Colyer (R) will officially appoint the new candidate to fill the vacancy.
The conservative senator was first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. Throughout his one-and-a-half terms in the senate, Fitzgerald earned a reputation as “one of the most conservative members” of the state legislature, writes the Kansas City Star.
A noted member of the party’s conservative wing, Fitzgerald opposed the repeal of former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts and efforts to expand Medicaid in the state. The senator also attracted controversy with comments comparing Planned Parenthood to the Nazi concentration camp Dachau and a statement earlier this year that “outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood denounced Fitzgerald’s “hateful” senate career. But Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, a Republican, praised Fitzgerald for his service.
“Steve Fitzgerald is a shining example of what it means to be a public servant,” Wagle said. “He has dedicated his career to helping others whether it be in the military or on the floor of the Kansas Senate.”
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