Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kansas 2nd District), who is currently running for reelection, announced an endorsement Monday from the National Rifle Association, also noting that he has an "A" rating from Gun Owners of America.
"Radical Democrats are simultaneously calling for the defunding of police departments across the country while actively trying to take away guns from law-abiding American citizens -- so the need to protect our Second Amendment has never been more urgent," Watkins said in a press release. "As the only candidate in this race with the endorsement of the NRA, Kansans can rest assured I will always stand with President Trump to preserve our right to self-defense and our Constitutional freedoms at all costs."
Although the NRA Political Victory Fund did not have endorsement or grades for Kansas candidates posted early Monday afternoon, the release from the Watkins campaign included a letter, dated Monday, from NRA-PVF Chairman Jason Ouimet.
"We appreciate your steadfast defense of Second Amendment freedoms in the face of repeated attempts by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push radical restrictions on these rights. Specifically, we applaud your vote against the so-called ‘universal’ background checks bill that would criminalize the private transfer of firearms, which according to the Justice Department, is only enforceable through federal firearms registration," the letter said.
"Moreover, we commend your strong support for self-defense and Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation, which would ensure that the nearly 20 million law-abiding Americans who can carry a concealed firearm in their home state are able to do so in any other state that does not prohibit concealed carry."
The release from the Watkins campaign also noted endorsements from the National Right to Life, Kansans For Life, and the Guardian Fund. "Proving he is the conservative choice in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District," according to the release.
Watkins’s main competitor for the Republican nomination, however, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner, has pointed to endorsements from similar advocacy groups in making the case that he is the more conservative choice to represent the 2nd District.
In an interview with the Morning Sun earlier this month, LaTurner noted endorsements from the Family Policy Alliance, National Association for Gun Rights, and the Kansas Farm Bureau.
LaTurner also noted he had earned the 2017 "Pro-Life Hero Award" from Kansans For Life — the same group whose endorsement Watkins is now touting — and an "A+" rating from the NRA.
LaTurner said in that interview that he was challenging Watkins for the GOP nomination because "the people of the 2nd congressional district deserve a congressman that they can trust to do what they say they’re going to do," LaTurner said. "I don’t think they have that now."
Watkins, for his part, has similarly challenged LaTurner’s credibility, calling him "Jake ‘Lying’ LaTurner" in a press release just days before that interview.
"LaTurner spends his days challenging the conservative record of one of the most pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump Members of Congress, but refuses to answer for the critical role he played in raising property taxes for Kansans and passing the largest tax increase in state history," Watkins Campaign Spokesman Bryan Piligra said in that release.
LaTurner has since announced he will participate in a televised debate with Watkins on July 14, as well as challenged him to additional debates.