On Friday, July 13, an unlucky day for Republican 2nd District Congressional candidate Steve Watkins, the Kansas City Star posted an article citing three Democrats who insist Watkins flirted with a Democratic endorsement.
On July 2, the left wing Daily Kos ran a comparable article. The Kos noted that “several Democratic organizers . . . met with Watkins in 2017.” They thought he was looking for their endorsement, but when Paul Davis expressed his interest in running, the Democrats could not offer Watkins any encouragement.
“When the Democratic door closed, though,” said the Daily Kos, “Watkins tossed himself into the Republican primary, making his lead statement: ‘Conservative Family Values.'”
Reluctant to run with an unsourced allegation, the Sentinel reached out to Watkins on Saturday, July 7, for clarification. The conversation went as follows:
Sentinel: “Is there any truth to the Daily Kos story that you initially sought the Democratic nomination? If so, could you please explain why?”
Watkins: “No — no truth to it whatsoever.”
Sentinel: “Steve, thanks. How did that rumor get started?”
Watkins: “No idea.”
Sentinel: “Thanks. [The Sentinel] will not write about this then unless you think the rumor is widespread enough to deserve a denial.”
The Star article puts this story fully back in play. According to the Star’s Bryan Lowry, Watkins, an Army veteran and political newcomer, met with three Kansas Democrats at the the Shawnee Democratic Party headquarters in Topeka in August 2017.
“He was basically trying to feel us out and see if we’d support him for Congress,” Ty Dragoo, the Democratic vice chair for the 2nd District, told the Star.
“When he was talking to us, it was all the right stuff,” Dragoo continued. “He supports sensible gun laws. He supports labor unions. … He sounded like a Kansas Democratic Party member. His social views were liberal. We talked about gay and lesbian rights and he was all for that.”
Watkins admitted to the meeting but denied everything else. “I was not at any point looking to run as a Democrat, nor was I ever approached about running as a Democrat,” Watkins told Lowry in a phone interview.
“I was taking some meetings with political types,” he added, “and an associate advised me to reach out to Ty. At some point, I realized he had arranged the meeting to take place at the Democratic HQ. I didn’t back down from that. I’ve met with insurgents and warlords.”
A week earlier, Watkins had assured the Sentinel he had “no idea” how the rumor got started that he was seeking the Democratic nomination. He obviously did have an idea. By misleading the Sentinel, Watkins postponed the end of his political career by a week.