KANSAS CITY, Mo. — U.S. Rep Steve Watkins, a Republican from Kansas, faces criminal charges associated with voting irregularities.
Shawnee County, Kansas, District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Tuesday that Watkins has been charged with interfering with law enforcement by providing false information, voting without being qualified and unlawful advance voting, all felony charges.
Watkins also faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of a change of address.
Kagay says his office was notified of the allegations in December 2019 and asked the Shawnee County Sheriff’s office to conduct an investigation.
An affidavit in the case was submitted Tuesday by the sheriff’s office to Shawnee County prosecutors.
Kagay said the sheriff’s office is handling the investigation.
Watkins serves as representative for Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, which includes Topeka, Lawrence, Atchison and other parts of eastern Kansas outside the Kansas City area.
A spokesman for Watkins' reelection campaign called the charges "bogus" in a statement to 41 Action News and suggested it was a political stunt given the timing of the release less than a half-hour before Watkins joined challengers Jake LaTurner and Dennis Taylor for a candiadate's debate ahead of the Aug. 4 primary.
"They couldn't have been more political if they tried," spokesman Bryan Piligra said.
He went on to accuse Kagay of a political prosecution by opponents "who can't accept the results of the last election."
The Watkins campaign also used the charges to try and attack LaTurner, who is the top challenger to unseat him for the Republican nomination.
"Kansans and Americans are tired of these kinds of silly games," Piligra said. "This is a desperate political attack by a desperate political campaign."
Piligra described LaTurner as "hell bent on seeing Democrat's [sic] win and undermining Republicans at every turn."
LaTurner fired back in an interview with 41 Action News, saying the 2nd District deserves a candidate who can "represent the values of this district but also win the general election," he said. "Voters should want their congressman to live in the district they are representing."
He also said the charges against Watkins are about his choices and not about LaTurner's campaign.
"Listen, Steve Watkins needs to take responsibility for the decisions he’s made," LaTurner said. "No one makes Steve buy a home in the 2nd congressional district. No one makes Steve lie on government documents and sign his name under penalty of perjury, and certainly no one makes Steve lie to the police."