Kansas congressman addressing residence issue for 2nd time

photo by: Associated Press

Steve Watkins speaks at an election night rally in Topeka, Kan., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

TOPEKA – A freshman Kansas congressman might have to correct his voter registration a second time after changing it earlier this month while local authorities investigated him for previously listing a UPS Inc. store as his home.

The Kansas City Star reports that Republican Rep. Steve Watkins of eastern Kansas is facing questions about listing a west Topeka apartment complex as his home because he didn’t include an apartment number. The complex is split between two Kansas Senate districts, and the local election commissioner said Friday that his office needs to know exactly where Watkins lives.

The Shawnee County sheriff’s department is investigating whether Watkins broke state elections laws by listing a UPS store in southwest Topeka as his residence on a form he filed in late August and voting in the Nov. 5 election. Watkins’ ballot included a City Council race, and the apartment complex is outside that council district.

Watkins still listed the UPS store, located about 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) south of the apartment complex as his mailing address but added the complex’s address as his residence in a voter registration form he submitted Dec. 6. But the address he listed is for the complex’s office, and buildings in the complex carry different numbers.

“I’m going to probably have to reach out to him at some point,” Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell told The Associated Press. “I can’t figure out which ballot he should get.”

The continued questions about Watkins’ registration come with some fellow Republicans hoping to oust him in the GOP primary in August 2020. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging him for the Republican nomination, having been publicly encouraged to run by former GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Watkins’ office has said his listing the UPS store as his residence was an inadvertent mistake.

“We have not been reached out to by anyone and will provide any additional information requested,” Watkins’ chief of staff Jim Joice said in a statement Friday to The Star. “This is just another petty attempt by the political establishment unhappy with the results of the 2018 election to undermine Congressman Watkins.”

Watkins won a crowded Republican primary in 2018 with less than 27% of the vote and the general election by less than 1 percentage point.

Neither Joice nor Watkins spokesman Dylan Jones immediately responded to telephone and email messages Friday evening from the AP seeking comment. Watkins and his aides have not said how long he has lived at the apartment complex or why he maintains a separate mailing address.

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