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GOP lawmaker steps down from committees following voter fraud charges

Rep. Steve WatkinsSteven (Steve) Charles WatkinsEthics panel opens probe into Rep. Watkins after voter fraud charges The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Virus bill unlikely to pass this week MORE (R-Kan.) announced Friday he is temporarily stepping down from his committee assignments after being charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor.

“Throughout my entire career, I have put service above myself, and this instance is no different. That’s why I’ve chosen to temporarily and voluntarily step aside from my committees, allow the committees to continue their critical work, and fight these bogus charges,” Watkins said in a statement.

House Republican Conference rules suggest Watkins would have been forced to step down anyway. According to rules passed in 2018, lawmakers who have been indicted on a felony charge and face more than two years of jail time are required to relinquish their committee and/or leadership positions.

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Watkins, who is accused of voting illegally in a 2019 local election, also used Friday's statement to deny the allegations against him, asserting the charges were politically motivated.

“I look forward to exposing the corruption and collusion behind this blatant political prosecution and holding those responsible accountable,” the first-term lawmaker said.

Watkins was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Education and Labor Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.) said Watkins still has his support and he has no plans to retract previous donations made to his reelection campaign.

“I have contributed earlier to Steve's campaign in this race and I'm not changing that. I know Steve put a statement out that he's stepping down from his committees right now while he works through the charges, and he has a campaign going forward right now. I haven't changed my position in my support of him,” McCarthy told reporters on a press call Friday.

Watkins faces a difficult primary challenge from Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner and moderate Dennis Taylor.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay on Tuesday announced the four charges against Watkins: interference with law enforcement, providing false information; voting without being qualified; unlawful advance voting; and failing to notify the DMV of change of address. The announcement was made less than an hour before Watkins took the stage for a televised debate against his primary opponents.