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SALT LAKE CITY -- Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack sent a shock through Utah's political community Saturday by resigning from the state Senate. His resignation comes just a day after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence.
With just nine days to go until the 2010 legislative session, political pundits are waiting to see who will fill not only Killpack's seat, but his leadership role.
In an online statement released Saturday afternoon, Killpack said, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the legislative process, my legislative colleagues and for my constituents. At this time the Legislature would be a distraction from what is most important and, frankly, I find that I have become a distraction to the Legislature. In light of that I have decided to tender my resignation as Majority Leader and as a Utah state Senator, effective immediately."
Killpack was arrested early Friday after troopers spotted him driving erratically near 3300 South and 700 East. The trooper ran Killpack through a field sobriety tests, then asked him to take a pair of breath tests. UHP said he refused, so they obtained a warrant to draw blood.
Killpack was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail at 2:45 a.m. and later released.
The news of the arrest shocked the political community, especially in light of Killpack's history -- his father was killed by a drunk driver, and he's worked to toughen DUI laws in Utah's Legislature."This is a very, very important issue and with that in mind we can see why it was almost a necessity for the Senate \[majority leader\] resign his position because he had lost his credibility," said Dr. Tim Chambless, an assistant professor and lecturer with the University of Utah's Department of Political Science. Killpack, a Syracuse Republican who served for six years, issued an [apology](http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=9353083&pid=1) for his actions Friday.
In Saturday's resignation statement, Killpack said he consulted friends and family before making his decision to step down. He said his "heart weighed heavy" and thanked the community for its support.
To read Killpack's full statement, CLICK HERE.
Senate leaders reacted with some sadness to Killpack's resignation. Senate Majority Whip Scott Jenkins said, "There's a lot of sorrow. We think the world of Sheldon and he's a wonderful individual so we're just sad it's come to this."
Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen also issued a statement Saturday. In it, he praised Killpack's decision to accept responsibility for his actions and said he will be greatly missed in the Legislature.
To read Hansen's full statement, CLICK HERE.
Killpack not only leaves a Senate seat open, but also the key leadership position of Senate majority leader. With a session that will deal with possible budget cuts or tax increases rapidly approaching, political pollster Dan Jones says there's a lot at stake within the Republican Party.
"This would be an opportunity for the moderates in the Senate to voice their will in what kinds of programs they want," he says. "Let me tell you, it will be a real struggle for power."
Jones says he sees three figures emerging in the race for Senate majority leader -- Sen. Scott Jenkins, currently the majority whip, Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, the assistant whip and Sen. Pete Knudson, the executive appropriations vice-chair.
Senate leadership will meet Wednesday morning to vote on a new majority leader.
Hansen says the Utah Republican Party will assist Davis County Republicans in finding a new senator to represent their district.