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Trump-Backed Congressman Charged With Voter Fraud Loses Primary In Kansas

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Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner soundly defeated Trump-backed Rep. Steve Watkins in the Republican primary in Kansas’s 2nd District on Tuesday after Watkins was charged with voter fraud – the fourth nomination loss for a Trump-backed candidate this year.

KEY FACTS

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman called the race for LaTurner on Tuesday with 56% of precincts reporting – when LaTurner was leading Watkins by 15 points, 49% to 34%, according to the New York Times.

Watkins, a veteran and defense contractor, narrowly won the seat in 2018, defeating Kansas State House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis by less than a point.

Watkins has been marred by scandal since before his House tenure began; during the 2018 campaign he faced allegations of sexual misconduct and inflating his business resume.

In July, Watkins, an honorary co-chair of President Trump’s reelection campaign, was charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor related to voter fraud after he reportedly changed his voter registration address to a UPS store last year to vote in a City Council race which ended with a margin of just 13 votes–which Watkins’ office claimed was an accident.

Watkins’ team alleged political bias against Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, a Republican, telling Forbes in July that the charges were “bogus” and that he was being “politically prosecuted by his opponents who can’t accept the results of the last election.”

LaTurner, 32, is the youngest statewide elected official in the country and would be among the youngest members of the House.

Key Background

LaTurner had the backing of former Governor Jeff Colyer, former Rep. Ron Estes and several other major figures in the Kansas Republican establishment. Watkins, however, had the endorsements of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump’s endorsement has long been a silver bullet in GOP primaries, but several Trump-backed candidates have suffered a series of shocking defeats in recent months.

Crucial Quote

“Count us shocked that Steve Watkins has found someone else besides himself to blame for illegally voting and lying to a law enforcement officer,” LaTurner’s team said of Watkins’ charges in July. LaTurner used the charges as a campaign issue.

Tangent

Watkins is also under investigation by the Federal Election Commission over allegations that his father illegally donated to his 2018 campaign, according to a report from Politico.

What To Watch For

LaTurner will go on to face Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla in November. The two are roughly on par in terms of fundraising, but LaTurner enjoys a partisan advantage in the Republican-leaning district, which voted for Trump by 19 points in 2016 even as Watkins only narrowly captured it.

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