2nd District candidates clash during televised debate

photo by: Peter Hancock

Democrat Paul Davis, left, Republican Steve Watkins and Libertarian Kelly Standley answer questions during a 2nd District congressional debate hosted by KTWU-TV in Topeka on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

TOPEKA – The two major party candidates for the 2nd District congressional seat took some of the sharpest verbal jabs at each other yet in the 2018 campaign, clashing on issues ranging from Medicare and Social Security to the partisan nature of Washington politics.

During a televised debate Monday night on KTWU-TV in Topeka, Democrat Paul Davis and Republican Steve Watkins each tried to portray the other as an extremist and someone who should not be trusted in Congress.

“Paul Davis will tell you that the woman whose allies have given him $4 million, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif. and current House minority leader), is someone that he will oppose in Congress. He lies,” Watkins said.

For his part, Davis pointed to recent news stories and editorials that have challenged Watkins’ truthfulness about his own biography.

Referencing a recent Topeka Capital-Journal editorial, Davis said: “They said of Mr. Watkins, if he can’t be trusted to run a truthful campaign, why should we trust Steve Watkins to represent us in the United States Congress.”

With only two weeks remaining before the general election on Nov. 6, and polls showing the two locked in a close race, both candidates used the debate to draw sharp distinctions between themselves.

Davis accused Watkins of supporting a Republican-backed tax plan that he said would eventually lead to deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security. He also pointed out that Watkins has said he is open to the idea of privatizing Social Security and using “means testing” to determine retiree benefits, which is to say only paying benefits to people who meet certain income guidelines.

Watkins, in turn, said Davis “likes tax hikes, abortions and higher spending.” He added, “He will do everything and anything to detract you from his voting record and most notably lying about mine.”

One of the sharpest exchanges came when the candidates were asked what they would do to reduce the level of partisan divisiveness in the United States.

“I’d recommend voting for Republicans,” Watkins said. “It’s the Democratic Party here that, among other things, they’re calling for mob politics.”

“I hope everyone was listening carefully to how Mr. Watkins answered that question,” Davis replied. “His idea of how we cure this divide is more partisanship.”

Also on stage at the debate was Libertarian candidate Kelly Standley, a business owner from St. Paul in southeast Kansas, who stayed clear of the personal attacks, insisting that he would only work for what is in the best interests of the 2nd District.

Davis, 46, is a Lawrence attorney and former minority leader of the Kansas House who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014.

Watkins, 42, is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and now works as an engineer for a military contracting firm.

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Steve Watkins, political newcomer, carries GOP hopes in 2nd District


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