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.
Amy Biviano, the Democrat challenging Shea, has accused Shea of trying to intimidate her by posting the photo of her home and refusing to take it down.
Shea briefly discussed the photo during a question-and-answer endorsement interview Monday at a meeting of the Republicans of Spokane County, a group that’s separate from the official county party. He said he posted the photo as a “thank you” to Biviano’s voting precinct, which was added to the 4th Legislative District as a result of redistricting completed in response to the 2010 census.
“Why run for office if you’re really worried about your privacy because your address is out there, especially if you’re a precinct committee officer?” said Shea, who won the endorsement of the group. “They’re grasping at straws because they can’t talk about the issues.”
Biviano is a precinct committee officer for the Democratic Party.
In a brief discussion before the meeting, Shea said he would not answer questions from The Spokesman-Review.
Pederson said Monday that he asked Shea to remove the photo on Aug. 10. It remained posted Monday.
But last week, Pederson called 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.
“This looks like a fabricated issue following a poor primary performance. Elected officials should be doorbelling all precincts in their district, and that will include their opponent’s precinct,” Pederson said in the statement he issued on the dustup last week.
Pederson said he wants to correct the characterization 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 Facebook. However, he said, he made the request during a cellphone call with a reporter in which reception was so poor that the reporter had asked him to try calling back. Pederson later sent a 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.
“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.