GOP targets Kansas Democrat with 1998 strip club charge

FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2018, file photo, Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District in Kansas, answers questions during a news conference in Topeka, Kan. A Republican group is resurrecting an embarrassing scene in a strip club from Davis' past in a television ad that characterizes him as "shady." (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican group is resurrecting an embarrassing scene in a strip club from a Democratic congressional candidate’s past in a television ad that characterizes him as “shady.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee aimed at maintaining GOP control in the U.S. House, is running an ad in eastern Kansas that targets former state legislative leader Paul Davis.

The ad describes Davis’ presence during a 1998 drug raid in a club where an officer reported finding him in a dark back room with a nearly naked woman.

Davis’ spokeswoman notes the incident happened 20 years ago when Davis was a 26-year-old new lawyer who went with his boss to meet an unsavory client, who owned the club. Local police have said Davis wasn’t accused of wrongdoing.

The ad begins: “What’s worse than getting caught at a strip club during a drug bust? Ask Paul Davis.” The ad goes on to say Davis was found in a VIP room with a woman wearing only a G-string.

The ad also says Davis voted in the Legislature to allow strip clubs near homes, churches, schools and day cares. The ad is referring to 2011 legislation that would have barred strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, homes and libraries. Davis was among 28 Kansas House members who voted against the legislation, which died in the Senate.

The ad concludes: “Shady Paul Davis can’t be trusted.”

The strip club story also briefly gained attention during Davis’ 2014 run for governor against former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Davis is currently running against Republican and political newcomer Steve Watkins for the 2nd District seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who has opted not to seek re-election . Davis carried the district in his narrow statewide loss to Brownback.

“It’s our hope Steve Watkins will stop hiding behind attack ads and focus on the issues that every day Kansans face,” Davis campaign spokeswoman Kelsi Browning said.

When the strip club incident was cited in the 2014 race, Davis said he’d been in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” He said his firm represented the owner of the strip club. Davis released a statement from Independence Police Chief Harry Smith, who participated in the raid as a detective, saying Davis was not involved in any wrongdoing. He wasn’t arrested.

The owner spent six years in federal prison after the raid.

The Congressional Leadership Fund signaled in August that it planned to remind voters about the incident. McClatchy Newspapers reported that after Davis complained about an ad that falsely stated he supported Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, fund executive director Corry Bliss said: “Paul Davis should be careful what he wishes for — when the Pelosi ads come down, the strip club ads go up.”

Davis early in his congressional campaign promised to oppose Pelosi’s return as U.S. House speaker if Democrats won back the House.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, headed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, has set up an office in the Kansas district and in the neighboring 3rd Congressional District covering Kansas City and its suburbs. The moves are part of a nationwide effort to maintain GOP control of the House, where Democrats need to pick up 23 seats nationally to gain the majority.

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