City Council President Joe Shogan reversed the order of this week’s council meeting to publicly call for the resignation of the executive director of the state Republican Party.
Four council members, Bob Apple, Steve Corker, Nancy McLaughlin and Richard Rush, walked off the dais in protest while Shogan spoke and the other two criticized him later for talking about campaign issues in the midst of a council meeting.
Shogan was responding to comments the executive director of the state GOP, Peter Graves, made last week to The Spokesman-Review when responding to questions about the party’s $25,000 donation late last month to the mayoral campaign of David Condon, who defeated incumbent Mary Verner this week.
Graves said the party decided to give to Condon to “take her (Mayor Mary Verner) out before she gets a chance at a free shot at a great congresswoman in the Fifth District.” Graves was referring to Condon’s former boss, Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and said that some had speculated that Verner might one day run for Congress.
Shogan called Graves a “coward” and his comments “reprehensible, repugnant and cowardly.”
“I and Mr. David Condon know the meaning of the last definition of taking somebody out ’cause I’ve been in combat and I know that meaning, and Mr. Condon has been in a combat support hospital, so he knows first hand what taking somebody out can mean,” said Shogan, a Vietnam veteran.
Josh Amato, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said it would be ridiculous for anyone to believe that Graves’ use of the term “take out” was meant to refer to an act of violence.
“Has this guy run for public office, been elected and not understand what the words ‘take out’ mean in a political sense? It seems like faux outrage.” Amato said. “We were obviously talking about removing from office.”
Councilman Jon Snyder said he disapproved of the venue Shogan used, but said he shares Shogan’s concern.
“Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by a deranged individual less than one year ago after she was targeted with similar political language,” Snyder wrote on his blog. “Anyone who thinks there is no connection between this sort of rhetoric and actual threats to elected officials is ignoring reality.”
Each week, each council member is given time to discuss happenings in their district and other council business he or she is working on. After hearing routine presentations in Monday night’s meeting, Shogan announced that he would be giving his weekly “council comment” at that point instead of the end of the meeting.
When a council member tried to object to him discussing the issue, Shogan said he wouldn’t allow himself to be interrupted.
“Don’t even try to object. ’Cause you’re not going to object,” Shogan said. “I’m not going to take any objections. I’m going to say what I’m going to say.”
At the end of the meeting, when the rest of the council made their routine “council comments,” Councilwoman Amber Waldref said she “strongly” objected to Shogan’s statements.
“Even commenting on any campaigns that are going on can cross the line,” Waldref said. “So I feel that your comments were inappropriate, and they didn’t add any value to this meeting.”
Shogan said he was responding to “language indicating a threat to a public official, including to us.”
“My responsibility is for the safety of this council,” Shogan said. “I accept your concern, but if I had to do again, I would do it again.”
Councilman Steve Corker publicly apologized to the crowd for Shogan using the council meeting to make the comments.
To which Shogan interrupted: “You can apologize for yourself. Mr. Corker. Don’t include me in your apology.”
Corker finished: “It was inappropriate and I’m sorry that it took place.”
After results were released on Tuesday night, Verner told reporters that Graves’ comments “reveals what my opponent’s campaign was all about.”
“The party’s explanation that my opponent has been running against a figment of the party’s imagination was very telling,” Verner said. “I’m committed to serving this community.”
Shogan has strictly enforced council rules that ban discussions about campaigns during the time set aside for public comment.
He said in an interview later this week that his discussion wasn’t about politics, it was about addressing a threat.
“You can’t say that about any federal office,” Shogan said. “You’d be in jail.”
But Shogan criticized Graves for more than using the term “take out.”
“Instead of the focus being on Mr. Graves’ candidate such that it would be on the issues of the city. the focus is on protecting our great congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers,” Shogan said during the meeting.