PITTSBURG, Kan. — Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who is challenging Rep. Steve Watkins for the Republican nomination in the state’s 2nd congressional district, visited Pittsburg Thursday and spoke with the Morning Sun about the latest developments in his campaign, as well as political issues that have been on many people’s minds recently, from the impact of COVID-19 on the economy to the death of George Floyd.


“I’m from Southeast Kansas, this is home for me. I grew up in Galena, my wife grew up in Chanute,” LaTurner said, adding that he had visited Parsons, Iola and Independence before arriving in Pittsburg on Thursday. “I’m a Pittsburg State grad and represented Pittsburg in the [Kansas] Senate for five years before becoming treasurer, and so this is an important part of the 2nd congressional district.”


LaTurner said he is running for two reasons.


“One, we think 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. And two, we need a Republican nominee in August that can win the seat in November, and I don’t think the current congressman can do that either.”


Earlier in the week, Watkins took a few shots of his own at LaTurner, who he called “Jake ‘Lying’ LaTurner” in a press release.


“The 2015 property tax cap amendment authored and introduced by Jake LaTurner has been a complete disaster, and it’s unfortunate that Governor Kelly chose to rescue a fellow tax-supporting career politician instead of rescuing Kansans who are struggling to make ends meet during this economic crisis,” Bryan Piligra, Congressman Watkins’ campaign spokesman, said in the release.


“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.”


LaTurner said the Watkins campaign’s allegations were “laughable to anyone that’s paid attention.”


Watkins and his campaign “have been dishonest about his own record,” and Watkins himself “has a very loose association with the truth,” LaTurner said.


“And a big issue is that he’s under investigation right now for felony voter fraud,” LaTurner said. “He owns homes in Alaska, his spouse lives in Boston, and he registered to vote at a UPS store in Topeka.”


There are many differences between Watkins and himself, LaTurner said.


“I’m a delegate to support Donald Trump at the Republican convention,” he said. “He didn’t even vote for Trump against Hillary Clinton in this last election. I have an A+ from the [National Rifle Association] because I’ve actually carried legislation on that. He voted against a key vote for the NRA in his first year in Congress. I won the Pro-Life Hero Award from Kansans For Life. He on the record said he was pro-choice. So we have a lot of disagreements when it comes to policy.”


LaTurner noted he has recently received endorsements from the Family Policy Alliance, National Association for Gun Rights, and the Kansas Farm Bureau.


One of the biggest current political issues and one of the first things he would focus on if elected, LaTurner said, would be getting the economy back up and running.


“I think we’re going to need representation in Washington that has the humility to understand that the federal government can’t solve all of our problems with borrowing money from China,” he said. “The way we got to as robust an economy as we had was through deregulation and tax cuts.”


LaTurner said if he had already been in Congress in the past few months, he would have liked to have seen some changes to recent COVID-19 relief efforts such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.


“I think one of the mistakes with it was the unemployment benefits,” LaTurner said, “that we have 68 percent of people receiving unemployment benefits making more in unemployment than they would working, so that isn’t much of an incentive to get the economy back up and running.”


He also weighed in on another topic that has recently been getting extensive media attention nationwide — the death of George Floyd.


“The death of George Floyd is tragic, for sure, and the peaceful — peaceful being the key word — demonstrations towards that, there’s no issue with that,” LaTurner said. “Where it’s gotten out of hand are the violent protests.”


While Floyd’s death “looked like murder to me,” LaTurner said, local and state-level leaders need to ensure that the rule of law is followed in their communities.


LaTurner said “the vast, vast majority of police officers are great people, doing the right thing, putting themselves in harm’s way, and I stand next to them in what they’re doing.”