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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

McCaslin blasts Shea as possible successor for state Senate seat

Longtime state Sen. Bob McCaslin, who resigned last month, doesn’t think state Rep. Matt Shea should replace him.

“I wish to state that under no circumstances would I support Matthew Shea for any public office,” McCaslin writes in a letter to Spokane County commissioners.

The terse message is included in packages of background information commissioners reviewed late Friday afternoon as they prepare to name McCaslin’s successor.

Shea couldn’t be reached in three calls for comment Friday evening.

An attorney who was elected to the House in 2008, Shea is the top choice of 4th District Republican Party officials. As required by state law, party officials gave commissioners three nominees.

The others are Jeff H. Baxter, who was an unsuccessful write-in candidate for a West Valley School Board position in 2009, and Roy Murry, who operates a security business.

Murry has been convicted in Spokane County of carrying an illegal weapon and was recently arrested in Las Vegas, where he potentially faces another weapons charge.

McCaslin, 84, served 30 years in the Legislature and stepped down because of poor health. He is recovering from illness-related amputation of a leg.

McCaslin told The Spokesman-Review he believes Shea broke his word on a deal to include former legislator and District Court Judge Mike Padden among the nominees to replace McCaslin.

“When somebody breaks his word to me, that is a cardinal sin,” McCaslin said. “That’s the kiss of death in the Legislature.”

He said the deal was with Shea, Padden and state Rep. Larry Crouse. Padden and Crouse said they also believed there was a deal, but Shea may not have.

County commissioners must choose from the party list. If they don’t do so by March 4, the job will pass to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who also would be limited to the party nominees.

Commissioners say they have been under intense pressure from party members to make a quick appointment, but they insisted on a thorough screening that is to culminate in interviews next Friday.

Part of the process has been to collect police and court records as well as rèsumès from the candidates and letters from supporters and detractors.

In addition to Murry’s criminal history, the dossiers include documents from Shea’s bitter divorce proceedings in 2007 and a criminal case in which Shea was a character witness for a defendant who was convicted of trying to steal about $7,000 from the estate of a man who had been in the defendant’s care.

The dossiers also include a five-page sworn statement in which County Commissioner Todd Mielke says Shea subjected him to an outburst of “spontaneous, extreme anger.”

Mielke says the incident occurred in the House Office Building during last year’s legislative session.

Mielke, a former state representative, said Shea loudly addressed him with a sexually vulgar expletive and complained that he didn’t consult Shea about a bill Mielke was promoting.

“You need to learn that if you want anything through this process, you need to talk to me first,” Mielke quotes Shea.

Mielke says the incident caused him to rethink his previous dismissal of similar accounts by Shea’s ex-wife of “intense angry outbursts.”

He said in an interview that he wants an unequivocal answer from Shea about his ex-wife’s allegation that “he was disarmed by his commander in Iraq and called in for a psychiatric evaluation for anger management problems.”

Shea was serving as an Army National Guard captain.

Mielke said Shea’s supporters have threatened to vote him out of office if he doesn’t do “the right thing,” but domestic violence advocates also are pressuring him.

“I am having a lot of internal struggles determining what the ‘right thing’ is,” Mielke said. “I believe that my moral and ethical integrity is on the line in this decision.”

Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.