Questions over his suitability for the Spokane Valley’s open state Senate seat drew an angry response from Rep. Matt Shea, who contends they’re nothing more than “vicious personal attacks” on himself, his family and “our constitutional foundations and Christian principles.”
In a written statement to supporters over the weekend, Shea and his wife, Viktoriya, shot back at claims that he’d reneged on an agreement to allow former legislator Mike Padden to be on the list of nominees sent to Spokane County commissioners.
“In our Republic, a self-appointed aristocracy who ‘know better than the voters’ has always been shunned,” Shea wrote in the statement obtained by The Spokesman-Review.
Former state Sen. Bob McCaslin, who resigned from the seat after 30 years because of health problems, has said Shea couldn’t be trusted because he broke that agreement. Padden and state Rep. Larry Crouse, Shea’s seatmate in the 4th District, said they believed after a conversation with him that there was such an agreement, although they couldn’t say for sure that Shea believed that as well.
Shea said in the weekend statement that he “steadfastly refused to acquiesce to a backroom deal” to appoint someone to the seat.
His office confirmed that he had sent the statement to supporters, but Shea did not respond to a request for further comment.
County Commissioner Todd Mielke said he also received a copy of the statement and that the board is trying to determine how to handle it. The deadline for submitting comments was Friday, so some people could say it’s unfair to the other candidates to add something to the record, but others could argue it’s unfair to Shea to leave it out.
Mielke denied the board was being, in Shea’s words, “anti-Christian and anti-veteran” in questioning his qualifications. The board has tried since last week to schedule an interview with Shea for Friday. “He still has not returned our phone calls,” Mielke said.
Republican precinct committee officers in the 4th District nominated Shea, Jeff Baxter and Roy Murry for the open seat on Jan. 15. County commissioners, who under the state constitution must pick from those three, asked for resumes and statements from the nominees by Feb. 5 and began examining their qualifications before interviews and a possible decision scheduled for this Friday.
As part of that process, documents from Shea’s divorce from his first wife, Lisa, became part of the record, including a restraining order and sworn statements from her that he has problems controlling his temper. At one point, Lisa Shea said, he was relieved of his weapon during a deployment with the National Guard in Iraq.
Shea contended in the statement the allegations were made in an attempt to gain leverage in the divorce negotiations and “I will not dignify those untrue allegations with a response, as I believe they dishonor Viktoriya,” his current wife.
They surfaced in his first legislative campaign in 2008, and voters found them to be “without merit and a non-issue,” he added in the statement to supporters. “With regards to my military service, my numerous medals, decorations, commendations, and citations speak for themselves,” he wrote. “This includes a Bronze Star for service that I was awarded on the final day of my tour of duty in Iraq by my Battalion Commander.”
Mielke said that still doesn’t answer whether what his first wife said did happen, and commissioners are merely trying to determine the truth of a sworn statement filed in court. Murry and Baxter are scheduled for interviews on Friday morning, and the board is scheduled to begin deliberations at 3 p.m.
Commissioners have until March 5 to fill the seat, or the appointment to replace McCaslin in the strongly Republican district would go to Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat. All three commissioners, as well as Shea, Padden, Crouse and McCaslin, are all Republicans.
“I don’t see any scenario where that will happen,” Mielke said. “We want to finish this process up and move on.”