Steve Watkins: Proven adventurer gets mired in politics

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Opinion

October 4, 2018 - 11:00 AM

Standard procedure for wannabe politicians is a process called vetting, that is, ensuring there’s no skeletons in the closet.
Campaigners for Steve Watkins missed that memo.
Watkins, Republican from Topeka, is running against Paul Davis, Democrat from Lawrence, to replace Lynn Jenkins, who is retiring after four terms as our 2nd District Representative in Congress.
Davis is familiar to locals for two reasons: He served in the Kansas Legislature from 2003 to 2015, the last six years as House Minority Leader; and in 2014 he ran a close, but unsuccessful, race against incumbent Sam Brownback for governor.
Watkins, on the other hand, is not a familiar face simply because he left Kansas 20 years ago and has only recently returned to, conveniently, run for office.
His story, also, continues to be one in the making.
On Tuesday, news came that Watkins is not the hero he purported to be on his campaign website, in regards to a 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Yes, he was in the country — but far away on the slopes of Mount Everest.
“There was not really anything heroic to be able to do. We all felt quite hopeless .. because we were not there ….” said Guy Cotter, a guide for the trip, whom Watkins had attributed saying he had provided Cotter and crew “heroic leadership among chaos.”
In a call with the Associated Press from his home in New Zealand, Cotter said he was unaware Watkins had posted the false claim on his campaign website, which has since been deleted.
In his thirst to be portrayed as an accomplished athlete and explorer — which no one can deny — Watkins also mentions his participation in Alaska’s famous dog sled race, the Iditarod, last spring.
But trouble exists there, as well.
To teammate Tara Cicatello, Watkins’ participation was primarily self-promoting, recalling that Watkins became perturbed when they dropped out 11 days into the race primarily because of the speaking engagements he had arranged at the finish line.
“People were irritated with Steve because they were doing more work for his dogs than he was,” Cicatello said. “I don’t think he mistreated them. It just sounds like he was all about the campaign and the show of it than the actual doing of it.”
While these two episodes are embarrassing, they should not be a candidate’s undoing.
But what goes beyond the pale is Watkins’ self-portrayal as a business icon.
Hoping to parlay on our bootstrap mentality, Watkins said he began a company from scratch and built it into a workforce of 473, and as such knows the trials of making payday.
When double-checked with the true owners of VIAP, Inc., the story fell apart, for which Watkins now blames “fake news.”

PAUL DAVIS is the better bet.
— Susan Lynn

 

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