Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kansas 2nd District) misled a sheriff’s detective, blaming his staff for an issue with his voter registration form that led to three felony charges against him, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay alleged Monday in a court filing.
Watkins’ attorney last week filed a request to have Kagay disqualified from prosecuting the case, which stems from Watkins listing a Topeka UPS store postal box as his residence for more than three months beginning in August 2019.
"The fact that the Defendant would prefer not to be prosecuted at this time or at all does not entitle him to disqualification of the District Attorney or his office," Kagay’s office wrote in the filing.
Watkins’ campaign alleged last week that there had been "collusion" between his primary opponent, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner, and Kagay — a claim that the district attorney’s office called "superficial" in its Monday filing, which also gave new details of the investigation into Watkins’ voter registration issue. According to the filing, Watkins said an unidentified member of his staff filled out the registration form that allowed him to cast a mail-in ballot in the Topeka City Council race.
"It is unconscionable that a congressman would stoop to the level of throwing his own staff under the bus rather than owning up to his own actions. As more and more details come to light it is abundantly clear that Watkins has a distinct pattern of spinning lies and blaming others, rather than taking responsibility," LaTurner said in a press release. "If the facts are as Steve suggests them to be, he should have been able to clear this up in an afternoon."
Watkins campaign spokesman Bryan Piligra said in an email, meanwhile, that LaTurner "should consider putting the Shawnee County DA on his campaign payroll," the Associated Press reported.
"It’s no surprise that LaTurner and his cronies in the prosecutor’s office would twist the truth to cover up the collusion and corruption that is becoming obvious in this case," Piligra said.
In a press release Monday, the LaTurner campaign said polling showed he would win in the general election, while Watkins would lose to Democrat Michelle De La Isla.