Politics

Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Loses Primary Weeks After Voter Fraud Charges

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) lost the GOP primary in the states 2nd Congressional District on Aug. 4, weeks after he was charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor linked to a probe into whether he voted illegally in a municipal election last year.

Watkins was unseated by State Treasurer Jake LaTurner on Tuesday, putting an end to his bid for a second term. Watkins was first elected in November 2018, replacing Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) following the end of her term. At the time, he received 47.6 percent of the vote against opponent Paul Daviss (D-Kan.) 46.8 percent—a margin of 2,239 votes.

“Its time to look to the future,” LaTurner told his supporters at a Topeka hotel. “Its time to unite this party.”

Watkins told reporters he called LaTurner to congratulate him and to wish him well in November, adding he personally would like to be part of Republican unity this November.

“I will continue to work to the best of my ability til the very last day that I serve,” Watkins said.

Watkinss charges were announced last month by Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, shortly before Watkins was scheduled to appear in a televised debate with two GOP challengers.

Kagay filed multiple felony counts against Watkins, which stem from a ballot he allegedly cast in the Topeka City Council election in November 2019. The charges include interference with law enforcement; providing false information; voting without being qualified; and unlawful advance voting. Watkins also was charged with a misdemeanor for failing to inform the Department of Motor Vehicles about a change of address.

For the local election last year, Watkins in August used the address of a Topeka UPS store on his voter registration, before signing an application for a mail-in ballot in October. He also allegedly voted in the wrong city council district.

At the time, Watkinss office said he had made an error and filled in his campaigns mailing address instead of his home address.

In December 2019, he changed the address to an apartment complex in the city, about 2 miles north of the UPS store, but it was the address for the complexs office. That address was not in the same city council district as the UPS store but in a district with no council race last year.

In January, Watkins filed another form listing another address for an apartment in the same complex as his residence.

“I havent done anything wrong,” Watkins said at the start of the July 14 debate. “As soon as I realized that I had put my mailing address instead of my physical address, we fixed it.”

The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election without being qualified. A first-time offender whos convicted could face a year in prison, though the more typical sentence would be 2 years probation.

Kagay also charged Watkins with voting illegally in advance and interfering with law enforcement by providing false information. Both felonies could bring up to 7 months in prison, though a years probation is the presumed sentence.

Kagays announcement didnt provide details about the alleged crimes, and the district attorney said in an email that he couldnt discuss them “until they are presented in open court.”

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— Steve WatkRead More From Source

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