A Kansas congressman who had listed a UPS Inc. postal field as his residence on a state voter registration type was charged Tuesday with three felonies, together with unlawful voting.
The prices towards Republican Rep. Steve Watkins got here three weeks earlier than the state’s Aug. four main election with fellow Republicans pushing to oust him from the jap Kansas seat he barely gained in 2018, regardless that he is largely toed the conservative coverage line and supported U.S. President Donald Trump.
Watkins referred to as the costs “hyper-political” regardless that the district legal professional who filed them is also a Republican. The congressman stated throughout a televised debate Tuesday night that he hadn’t seen the costs however has completed nothing unsuitable.
“I’ll get my title exonerated,” he stated throughout his closing assertion.
The prices have been filed in state district court docket in Shawnee County, which incorporates Watkins’s hometown, the state capital of Topeka. District legal professional Mike Kagay introduced them lower than 30 minutes earlier than the three Republican candidates’ solely scheduled debate started on three stations.
The UPS postal field was listed as Watkins’s residential handle for voter registration functions when he solid a mail-in poll for a neighborhood metropolis council and college board election in November 2019. He later modified his residential itemizing.
The most critical felony cost accuses Watkins of voting within the 2019 native metropolis and college board election with out being certified. A primary-time offender who’s convicted may face a yr in jail, though the extra typical sentence could be two years’ probation.
Charged with misdemeanour
Kagay additionally charged Watkins with voting illegally prematurely and interfering with legislation enforcement by offering false data. Both felonies may convey as much as seven months in jail, although a yr’s probation is the presumed sentence.
Watkins additionally was charged with failing to inform the state Division of Vehicles of a change of handle, a misdemeanour.
Kagay’s announcement didn’t present particulars concerning the alleged crimes, and the district legal professional stated in an e-mail that he couldn’t talk about them “till they’re introduced in open court docket.”
A listening to within the case was set for Dec. 3 – a month after the November normal election.
Watkins faces state treasurer Jake LaTurner and Dennis Taylor, a Topeka legal professional, businessman and former high administrator at a number of state companies. LaTurner stated the costs make the first contest a two-person race between him and Taylor.
“We must put our greatest foot ahead,” LaTurner stated throughout his opening debate assertion. “Clearly, our present congressman, with three felony prices and a misdemeanor cost, will not be the human being to do this.”
Some Republicans had lingering misgivings about Watkins even earlier than questions on his voter registrations. He is a former military officer and army contractor who lived most of his grownup life outdoors Kansas and hadn’t voted in its state or federal races till working for Congress. He had spent a lot time in recent times in Alaska, the place he had competed within the Iditarod canine sled race.
Democrats hope to choose up seat
Watkins gained the November 2018 normal election by lower than a proportion level in a Republican-leaning district that Trump carried by a large margin in 2016.
The presumed Democratic nominee this yr is Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla. The nationwide Democratic Party has stated it sees “a possibility” to choose up the seat.
“If you wish to be trusted to jot down our legal guidelines, you need to not less than comply with them,” the Democratic Congressional marketing campaign committee stated in a press release.
Watkins filed a state voter registration type in late August 2019 itemizing a postal field at a UPS retailer in southwest Topeka as his residential handle. The postal field nonetheless was listed as his residential handle when he solid a mailed-in poll that included a Topeka City Council race in November.
The congressman and his employees have stated he inadvertently listed his mailing handle as an alternative of his residential handle by mistake.
Watkins filed a brand new type in December itemizing an handle at an residence complicated about three kilometres north of the usstore as his residence, but it surely was the handle for the complicated’s workplace. That handle was not in the identical metropolis council district as the usstore however in a district with no council race final yr.
In January, Watkins filed one other type itemizing one other handle for an residence in the identical complicated as his residence.
The Shawnee County sheriff’s division started investigating Watkins’s voter registrations in December. In late May, Kagay stated in an e-mail that his workplace had reviewed the investigation and “requested followup be carried out on a particular problem,” with out being extra particular.