Analysis Culture

Spotlight: Veteran Candidates: Steve Watkins (KS-2)

This article is part of a series on veteran candidates for the House of Representatives in toss-up districts. The introduction for the series can be found here.

This article should not be seen as an endorsement of any political candidate or party, and does not represent the views of The Freq Media.

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“I’m running for congress to bring conservative Kansas values, and military leadership, to the politicians on Capitol Hill. ” A clear, concise statement from Steve Watkins, the Republican nominee for the contested Kansas Second Congressional District.

The race for KN-2 began when incumbent Lynn Jenkins (R) announced she would not seek reelection in a district Donald Trump won by 19 points in 2016. In response, Watkins and 6 other Republicans announced their candidacy. Watkins won his primary by 3 points, with 26.3% of the vote. He is running against former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D). As of a September poll, Davis had a 1 point lead on Watkins, which is well within the margin of error.

Watkins graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. According to his campaign website, he “excelled at engineering, student government, and football.” Watkins served in Fort Richardson, Alaska, and extended his active duty service to serve a deployment in Khost, Afghanistan. Watkins left active duty as a Captain, and is a graduate of the Army’s Ranger School.

Following his uniformed service, Watkins went to work for VIAP Inc., a paramilitary contracting company, where he specialized in engineering and economic development. Watkins spent over a decade working in the Middle East, where he “worked diligently to eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse of U.S. taxpayer’s money”, according to his campaign website. He also claims he was able to witness the power of economic dynamism to drive positive development first-hand, and has based his policy views around that experience.

In addition to his military service, Watkins has amassed a long resume of accomplishments. Continuing his academic achievements after West Point, Watkins has completed masters degrees from both MIT and Harvard. Following a 2013 battlefield injury that left him 90% disabled, Watkins felt the urge to accomplish something bold and inspiring to overcome his struggles with transition and PTSD, and sought to become the first person to complete the Iditarod Race and summit Mount Everest in a single year. While he successfully finished the Iditarod, his attempt at Everest was defeated by the 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people, 6 of whom were members of his climbing party, overcome by an avalanche.

Here are brief summaries of Watkins’ positions on critical policy areas:

Healthcare

Watkins insists that the healthcare issues affecting Kansans and Americans result from Obamacare, and the imposition of rules and regulations. He believes that letting capitalism reign in the healthcare sector would be to the benefit of all.

National Security

Watkins expresses strong opinions on national security, claiming that he will ensure the military and law enforcement are never underfunded and have access to the full resources needed to accomplish their task. He states plainly that national security does not stop at terrorism, and that stopping illegal immigration is a crucial part of his homeland security platform.

Immigration

Watkins has stated he is a ‘build-the-wall’ type of guy, defending his claims as not being racist or bigoted, but intended to protect American culture. He seeks reform of the country’s visa system and supports hitting back on ‘sanctuary cities’ that refuse to aid federal law enforcement.

Jobs and the Economy:

Watkins and his opponent Davis both agree that recently imposed tariffs on U.S. allies hurt American workers, specifically the agricultural industry central to KN-2. Davis believes in free and open trade, and claims he is a pro-business candidate, resulting from his years as a small business owner.

Despite clearing being a bold and adventurous man, Watkins has come under fire repeatedly during the 2018 campaign for issues related to his honesty, from both sides of the political aisle. His Republican primary opponents attacked him often for not being a true Kansan — between 2002 and 2015, he applied 11 times for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, which is given to Alaskan residents who claim the desire to remain so permanently. While acknowledging a transient life, Watkins claims it is his 2013 injury that made him wish to return home, and that he has always been a Kansan at heart. Watkins has also received criticism for Republicans for allegedly approaching Kansas Democrats about running for their party. Watkins denies this claim, and Republicans have since endorsed Watkins, given the high stakes election.

Additionally, Watkins has been quoted as founding VIAP, Inc. and building it from three to 470 employees, a claim later shown to be false. Watkins has since walked that claim back, insisting he meant that he was central to the company’s growth by defining many products and services. Other accusations have also been made public — from his poor Kansas voting record to his refuted claims of heroism during the Everest avalanche – all of which cast a shadow on a man very focused on amassing credentials. As always, the voters must decide how credible these claims are, and whether they or his policy positions are the most important factor in the Kansas Second district election.

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