A freshman Kansas congressman who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged Tuesday with three felonies, including illegal voting, the AP reports. The charges against GOP Rep. Steve Watkins came three weeks before the state's Aug. 4 primary election with fellow Republicans pushing to oust him from the eastern Kansas seat he barely won in 2018, even though he's largely toed the conservative policy line and supported President Trump. GOP critics already had worried that the months-long investigation into whether Watkins violated state election laws puts the 2nd District seat in play if he wins the primary. Watkins called the charges “hyper-political” even though the district attorney who filed them—less than a half-hour before the three GOP candidates' only scheduled debate began on three stations—also is a Republican.
"Give us a break. Thirty minutes before the first televised debate and the day before early voting starts, the DA—who shares a political consultant with our primary opponent Jake LaTurner—files these bogus charges. They couldn’t have been more political if they tried," Watkins' rep says in a statement to the Hill. The congressman said during the debate that he hadn't seen the charges but has done nothing wrong. “I'll get my name exonerated," he said during his closing statement. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins' residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot. He later changed his residential listing. Watkins is accused of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election without being qualified, voting illegally in advance, and interfering with law enforcement by providing false information, all felonies; he is also charged with the misdemeanor of failing to notify the state Division of Vehicles of a change of address. (Read more voter fraud stories.)