Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kansas 2nd District) is hoping to disqualify the prosecutor pursuing a case against him for listing a UPS postal box as his residence address on a voter registration form.
Watkins’ attorney filed a motion Wednesday night alleging a conflict of interest on the part of Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay and asserting that the case is politically motivated.
On Thursday, Bryan Piligra, Watkins’ reelection campaign spokesman, released a statement attacking Watkins’ primary opponent Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.
"Jake LaTurner is a habitual office-seeker, and it's clear now that there is nothing he will not do to advance his political career - including colluding with a corrupt prosecutor and their shared cronies," Piligra said in the statement.
Watkins faces three felony charges, as well as a misdemeanor charge, related to an investigation into whether he voted illegally in a local election last year. Kagay, a Republican who is running for re-election this year, announced the charges shortly before a televised primary debate in which Watkins was set to appear.
"First, we learn about these bogus charges less than 30 minutes before a debate, less than a day before early voting begins, and, coincidentally, right before LaTurner super PAC produced a television ad based on charges that had been public for less than a day. Next, we discover that LaTurner and the corrupt prosecutor share a political consultant, who has been paid thousands of dollars by both of them. Finally, it's exposed that Congressman Watkins won't even get his first day in court until December - perfect timing to maximize the political damage with no opportunity to clear his name," Piligra said.
"All these coincidences lead to one inevitable conclusion: Jake LaTurner colluded with a corrupt prosecutor to file bogus charges to win an election he's losing by more than 20 points. If it looks like a scandal, feels like a scandal, and quacks like a scandal, then it probably is a scandal. Jake LaTurner, his cronies, and the corrupt prosecutor have a lot of questions to answer."
LaTurner on Wednesday called the Watkins campaign’s assertions about the timing of the charges and connections between himself and Kagay "an absurd attempt [...] to muddy the waters" and said he does not know Kagay. On Thursday, LaTurner’s campaign issued a press release noting new endorsements added to his list of supporters.
Kagay, meanwhile, said Thursday that his office would respond to Watkins’ court motion with its own, according to the Kansas City Star.
In his statement Thursday, however, Piligra, Watkins’ campaign spokesman, continued to frame the charges against Watkins as inappropriate and evidence of corruption.
"Payoffs. Collusion. Corruption. Jake LaTurner has taken a page right out of Adam Schiff's playbook," Piligra said. "It's the same scheme Democrats ran against President Trump, and it is what Jake LaTurner is ham-handedly trying to do against an American patriot who has dedicated his life to serving our nation. But, like the Democrats, Americans and patriots see right through their amateurish games."