WASHINGTON, D.C. (KSNT) – U.S. Congressman Steve Watkins announced Friday he will temporarily step aside on his congressional committee assignments.
The House GOP Conference Rules require any member of a committee or subcommittee thereof who is indicted for a felony “for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed, shall submit his or her resignation from any such committees to the House promptly.”
“Throughout my entire career, I have put service above myself, and this instance is no different. That’s why I’ve chosen to temporarily and voluntarily step aside from my committees, allow the committees to continue their critical work, and fight these bogus charges,” Watkins said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to exposing the corruption and collusion behind this blatant political prosecution and holding those responsible accountable.”
This comes after Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Tuesday he filed three felony charges and a misdemeanor against Watkins, a fellow Republican, following a year-long investigation by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office.
“Steve Watkins is fighting for his life is what he’s fighting for,” said KSNT News Political Analyst Bob Beatty.
Kagay took over the investigation in April. Watkins came under investigation by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office after allegations he listed a Topeka UPS store for his address when voting in the 2019 general election.
The investigation was delayed significantly due to the coronavirus shutdown, Kagay said. But his office maintained constant contact with the sheriff’s office and received regular updates on the gathering of documents and statements.
Watkins is charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor that relate to the 2019 local election:
- Interference with law enforcement, providing false information
- Voting without being qualified
- Unlawful advance voting
- Failing to notify the DMV of change of address
Watkins’ lawyers filed a motion on Thursday seeking to disqualify Kagay from prosecuting against him, questioning Kagay’s ties to Watkins’ biggest opponent, Jake Laturner.
Less than an hour after announcing he will be stepping down from the committees, Watkins released a new political ad targeting Laturner.
“The people of the second congressional district are so much smarter than this,” Laturner said. “This ad is insulting and I hope we can turn a page on Steve Watkins here and get back to the real issues that matter to the people of this district.”
Watkins’ trial is currently set for December.
If convicted, Watkins can still run for Congress unless voted out by a two-thirds majority of the politicians, Beatty said.
If Watkins wins the primary elections, Beatty said the charges would make him a primary target for democrats ahead of the November election.