It may have started as a joke but the controversial photo of state Rep. Matt Shea standing on his Democratic challenger’s property has become a political hot potato for Republicans.
The chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party, who was characterized in The Spokesman-Review and other media last week as backing Shea’s decision to post the photo to his Facebook page, now says his position was misunderstood and that he’d actually been trying to persuade Shea to remove the photo.
“It is an extremely minor issue that has come to the forefront of the campaign,” Matthew Pederson said Monday.
Pederson said he asked Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley seeking his third term in the state House, to remove the photo on Aug. 10. It was still posted on Monday.
Last week, Pederson called Democratic hopeful Amy Biviano’s request that the photo of Shea standing in the driveway of her Spokane Valley home be removed from the Internet an attempt to avoid addressing the important issues facing the state.
“I did try to return a call to Amy last week. She did not respond,” Pederson said in the statement he issued on the dustup last week. “This looks like a fabricated issue following a poor primary performance. Elected officials should be door belling all precincts in their district and that will include their opponent's precinct.”
Pederson said he now wants to correct the mischaracterization of him standing behind Shea’s posting of the photo.
He said Monday that he’d told The Spokesman-Review last week that he’d asked Shea to pull the photo off of Facebook but that it was during a cell phone call with a reporter in which reception was so poor that the reporter had asked him to try calling back. Pederson later sent the prepared statement instead that included no mention of his efforts to get the photo removed from the Internet.
Asked Monday why he asked Shea to remove the photo when he felt it was a “fabricated issue,” Pederson said Biviano is exaggerating safety concerns she has based on her husband’s former job as a federal deputy prosecutor. The photo was taken while Shea was door-belling the neighborhood where Biviano lives and came across his opponent's home.
“It could be construed as immature at best, but to say that it’s intimidating is just a stretch of the campaign narrative,” Pederson said Monday.