Jul 31, 2020 9:00 AM

Detective: Kansas congressman lied about voting in 2019 race

Posted Jul 31, 2020 9:00 AM
Photo courtesy office of Rep. Steve Watkins
Photo courtesy office of Rep. Steve Watkins

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A detective who investigated Rep. Steve Watkins wrote in an affidavit that the Kansas congressman told her he didn’t vote in a 2019 Topeka City Council election, despite evidence showing he had cast a ballot in the race after listing a UPS store as his home address.

The affidavit released Wednesday was the latest development in a criminal case against the first-term Republican congressman, who faces a stiff challenge in next week’s GOP primary in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has charged Watkins with three felonies and one misdemeanor alleging he illegally voted in the 2019 election and lied to detectives investigating the allegations.

Watkins has said he made a clerical error when he listed the UPS store as his address. His campaign alleges the criminal charges are politically motivated and are designed to boost the chances of one of his GOP opponents, State Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

Shawnee County Sheriff’s Detective Stephanie Dicken said in the affidavit that during a Feb. 10 interview, Watkins at one point said he may have voted in the wrong City Council election but then later said “he actually didn’t vote for city council.”

Dicken said she received seven mail-in ballots for that race in June and that one of them was from Watkins.

“Therefore, Mr. Watkins’ statement to me that he did not vote in the City Council District 8 election is presumed to be false,” Dicken wrote.

Dicken also wrote that Watkins initially said he hadn’t signed an advanced voting application with the incorrect address before later saying he would have directed a staff employee to sign it.

Watkins’ campaign has said LaTurner and Kagay colluded to bring the charges. His attorneys have asked that Kagay be disqualified from the case because he uses the same direct mail vendor as LaTurner.

“Every day that goes by, we learn just how weak and politically motivated the DA’s office is,” Watkins’ campaign manager, Bryan Piligra, said in a statement. “Congressman Watkins — as he has said from day one — made a simple clerical error and immediately corrected it. The real investigation needs to be of Jake LaTurner and this corrupt prosecutor who have colluded in an attempt to manipulate Kansas voters. Luckily, voters are smarter than these prosecutors and they see right through this charade.”