A former military leader’s desire is to return the United States to the principles outlined by the Founding Fathers.
Steve Watkins, a Topeka Republican, witnessed the recent political chaos in Washington D.C. and knew a change was needed in Congress, he said. Watkins is running on the Republican ticket for the Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat, currently occupied by Lynn Jenkins.
“I am running on a platform to restore civility and integrity,” Watkins said. “We need civil servants that understand how to bring people together. People are tired of the venomous rhetoric. I am looking at how contentious and polarizing politics have become.”
Watkins is a self-proclaimed political outsider with conservative views. He is a graduate of West Point, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. The former Army captain, who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, spent nearly nine years in war zones.
“I am coming from the most reputable institution — the U.S. military — to one of the least reputable,” Watkins said. “The approval rating for Congress is abysmal. I am not OK with that. I don’t think voters are either. I want to bring some conservative Kansas values and military sensible leadership to Capitol Hill. It is my mission.”
Watkins hit the campaign trail a year ago with one thing in mind: listen to the people of the Second District.
“We didn’t come in agenda-blazing,” he said. “We wanted to hear what people have to say. That is the philosophy of the campaign.”
Watkins said the most common point among the constituents is to do away with the old guard and worn out ideals.
“The most common [theme] is drain the swamp,” he said. “They believe we need to bring fresh blood and new ideas to Washington. Main Street is where you go to listen and that is who you fight for. My campaign has a populist theme to it.”
Watkins also brings a business background to the campaign, growing an engineering firm from scratch after leaving the military. Watkins thinks his leadership skills can make a difference on Capitol Hill.
“Good leaders listen to their people,” he said. “There is no elected official who has all the answers. The answers don’t lie with lobbyists within the beltway. They lie on Main Street in places just like Ottawa. That leadership characteristic has done me well throughout my career and will do me well as a civil servant in Washington.”
Watkins said growing up in Kansas as the son of a teacher and rancher gives him an understanding of what Kansans want and need in a representative.
“I have small-town values,” he said. “Those values of hard work and honesty grew into a political philosophy which includes smaller government. It is about family, religious freedoms, community, sensible-size government and no government overreach, taking care of the poor and elderly, having a sensible tax code that does not overburden, the gift of life and peace through military strength. They were a lot of the [same] values shared by our Founding Fathers. They underpinned a vision born in 1776 by an imperfect crew of Founding Fathers. My mission is to preserve their vision for our country and safeguard our ways of life, values and culture.”
Watkins is a champion for the small business owner and agriculture. He wants to level the playing field for Main Street mom and pop stores by putting a sales tax on large scale internet retail companies.
“I also feel passionately about supporting agriculture,” Watkins said. “I talk to farmers a lot. [Agriculture] is the backbone of our economy. We are the bread basket — not only of our country — but of many countries. I am a free market thinker. Our growers need markets to sell to. It is the government’s job to help that out and not impede that with unnecessary trade wars. I have a burning desire to protect the essence of our country.”