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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Divorced candidate promotes family values

Court records include claims of abuse from ex-wife of 4th District’s Matt Shea

A recently divorced, childless family values advocate is one of four Republicans who want to replace retiring 4th District state Rep. Lynn Schindler.

Matt T. Shea’s wife, Lisa, was granted a divorce in January after complaining that he treated her “as a possession,” and was physically and emotionally abusive.

She said Shea insisted she walk on his left side because his sword, if he had one, would be on his right side. He said he knows nothing about that, but as a courtesy would walk between her and traffic.

Lisa Shea’s brother-in-law, Tino P. Vargas, swore in court documents that he saw Matt Shea yell at his wife, grab her arm “very hard and violently” and push her into a vehicle.

Lisa Shea said she moved out of the family home in fear, and a judge granted her a protection order.

The 34-year-old candidate said he never touched his wife in anger. He noted she produced no police reports, hospital records or photographs.

“I love my wife and, when I married, I intended it to be for life,” Shea said in an interview. “Unfortunately, my former wife didn’t and decided to pursue her third divorce.”

His response to the July 2007 divorce petition was less than gracious.

Among other disparaging remarks in court documents, Shea called his wife a “product of the foster care system.”

He said she failed to share unflattering history with him until “shortly before our engagement” – including that she was still married to her second husband when they began dating in 2001.

Shea called their breakup “an all-too-familiar tragic tune for returning combat veterans.”

An Army National Guard captain, he was called up in October 2003 for a year that included 11 months in Baghdad as a company commander and logistics officer in an infantry battalion.

Before his marriage, he said, he served eight months in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a platoon leader in a regular-Army cavalry unit.

Lisa Shea said her husband’s attitude toward her softened while he was in Iraq, “and I truly hoped that things would be different when he got home.” But they weren’t, she said.

Even after taking a few months to relax, read and work on writing a book, she said, “he was still angry about everything and nothing at all.”

“All of the old rules still applied,” she said. “I was no longer allowed to have my own bulletin at church, as I was ‘wasting paper.’ ”

But Lisa Shea said she was allowed to be responsible for the $1,185-a-month payments on the couple’s $310,000 home in the 17000 block of East Elliot Road in the Mount Spokane area.

She said in court documents that she worked in a title company office and supported her husband while he earned his law degree and racked up $50,000 in student loan debts.

After Shea earned his law degree, he “felt called to do full-time volunteer work,” his wife complained in an affidavit last July. “He still refuses to work in a profitable manner, despite the fact he is now a lawyer.”

Shea said the Washington Family Foundation, which he co-founded and directs, concluded after an investigation that the marital breakdown wasn’t his fault.

He said other officials of the foundation restored him as executive director when he voluntarily stepped down after the divorce filing.

The organization “seeks to inform people about family-value, religious-liberty and sanctity-of-life issues,” Shea said.

An attorney since November 2006, Shea has worked almost a year for Keith S. Douglass and Associates.

He said his pro bono work for the firm is as an “allied attorney” with the Alliance Defense Fund. Shea said the organization consists of about 1,000 lawyers across the country.

Shea publicly offered in December to help the city of Spokane defend against an atheist Spokane police chaplain’s lawsuit over Christian symbols on chaplain uniforms. City officials declined.

Although he doesn’t believe in divorce, Shea thinks his dissolution makes him a better candidate.

“I can relate to people with very complicated problems,” he said.