Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Tuesday that the Republican congressman is being accused of voting illegally in advance in the 2019 local city and school board election, voting when not qualified and interfering with law enforcement by providing false information, the outlet stated.
Watkins is also accused of failing to notify the state Division of Vehicles of a change in addresses, accounting for the misdemeanor, Fox added.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported in December that Watkins listed a Topeka UPS store address on a change-of-address form for voter registration in August 2019.
He then signed an application for a mail-in ballot in October, allowing him “to vote in a different city council district race than he would have before changing his registration,” according to NPR.
“The UPS store falls in a city council district where the election was decided by 13 votes,” NPR added.
CNN reported that the charges came to light “moments before” the congressmen appeared in a primary debate — he is currently up for re-election.
“This is clearly hyper-political. It comes out moments before our first debate and three weeks before the election. I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said to the outlet.
Watkins has since posted a statement to Twitter, calling the charges “bogus.”
“Just like President Trump, Steve is being politically prosecuted by his opponents who can’t accept the results of the last election,” wrote Bryan Piligra, a spokesman for Watkins.
Here is everything you need to know about Steve Watkins:
1. Watkins Was Born at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas
Watkins was born on Sept. 18, 1976 at the Texas base, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, and attended high school in Topeka, Kansas.
He pursued the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and graduated in 1999, the website continues.
Watkins is a graduate from the following military schools: Ranger, Airborne, Sapper, Air Assault, and Pathfinder, the directory discloses.
The politician also obtained master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, according to his campaign website.
2. Watkins Assumed Office in 2019, Representing Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District
Watkins took office on Jan. 3, 2019, according to Ballotpedia. His current term ends on January 3, 2021.
The politician claimed the open-seat election with 47.6 percent of the votes, while his opponent, Paul Davis (D), snagged the remaining 46.8, the website says.
Watkins is now running for re-election and is on the ballot in the Republican primary on Aug. 4, 2020, Ballotpedia indicated.
He is in a primary fight with “Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner and Dennis Taylor, who worked for former Gov. Sam Brownback and other Republicans,” NPR reported.
LaTurner told NPR that the charges could indicate the end for Watkins.
“It’s safe to say that this is now a two-person race,” he said. “The reality is Steve Watkins needs to take responsibility for what he’s done.”
3. Watkins Spent a Decade Working in Iraq, Afghanistan & Central Asia as an Independent Contractor
After graduating from West Point, Watkins served in the army as an airborne ranger in Afghanistan, according to his campaign website.
The Texas native spent nearly a decade after the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout Central Asia as an independent contractor, his website continues.
Watkins worked primarily with the Department of Defense, the page adds, while “he specialized in engineering, security and economic development.”
4. Watkins Attempted to Climb Mt. Everest in 2015
Watkins’ campaign website describes him as “an accomplished athlete and explorer.”
The page says the politician became “the first person to race in the Iditarod,” an annual long-distance sled dog race in Alaska, and “climb Mt. Everest.”
During his mountainous climb, “he was caught up in the Nepal Disaster of 2015,” the site continues.
Adding, “While at 19,200 ft the mountain., a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 8,500 people. Twenty-two (22) people died on Mt. Everest, 6 of whom were from Steve’s team. It was the deadliest day in the history of Mount Everest.”
5. Watkins is No Stranger to Controversy
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported in Oct. 2018 that a woman named Chelsea Scarlett claimed “she was in a room with Watkins 12 years ago when he locked the door, put his hands on her and made unwanted sexual advances.”
The newspaper obtained a statement from Watkins’ saying, “Another day, another round of second-hand, third-hand and anonymous ‘sources’ pushing Brett Kavanaugh-style destruction politics — this time, conveniently days before Election Day.”
Adding, “These charges are so preposterous they don’t deserve the dignity of a response or publication, but Republicans face this kind of assault from the media every day.”
Watkins was also previously scrutinized “for inaccurately claiming to have owned or started a private contracting company that operated in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
The veteran doubled down on his stance that he grew a private Versar-owned contracting entity “from a handful of employees to several hundred,” the newspaper indicated, but admitted he may “have misspoken a few times on that subject.’