A state court judge has rejected a freshman Kansas congressman’s request to remove the Topeka area’s prosecutor from a criminal election fraud case against him.

Attorneys for Representative Steve Watkins failed to show that District Attorney Mike Kagay in Watkins’ home of Shawnee County had “an axe to grind” in filing three felony charges against Watkins, District Judge David Debenham said in a ruling.

Both Watkins and Kagay are Republicans, but Watkins argued that Kagay was colluding with Watkins’ main primary opponent because they shared a campaign consultant.

Watkins lost his GOP primary race to State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who made the criminal case a key issue in their eastern Kansas district.

Watkins made his request to disqualify Kagay from the criminal case before the primary.

Debenham rejected Watkins’ argument that it was suspicious for Kagay to refuse to meet with the congressman during the investigation.

Kagay said that he has never met with the subject of an investigation while it is pending.

The judge also said he “could not see” how Kagay’s use of the same consultant as LaTurner “illustrates a conflict” even with the consultant’s public opposition to Watkins.

“Any connection is much too tenuous to find a valid conflict of interest,” Debenham wrote in his seven-page opinion.