Two more organizations demanded money back from state Rep. Matt Shea’s re-election campaign on Thursday, while others denounced his rhetoric and said they would not support him in future elections.
The latest controversy surrounding the Spokane Valley Republican also received national media attention, and his Democratic opponent reported a last-minute burst of small campaign donations from across the country.
Shea, who’s vying for a sixth term in the state House, has been under fire since he acknowledged last week he had distributed a four-page document titled “Biblical Basis for War.” The document condemns abortion and same-sex marriage and describes how a “Holy Army” should punish those who flout “biblical law.” At one point, the document states: “If they do not yield – kill all males.”
Shea – who espouses far-right conspiracy theories, mingles with militia groups, considers the United States “a Christian nation” and champions a push for a 51st state called Liberty – has said the document was merely a summary of sermon notes based on the Old Testament. But critics of Shea, including his opponent, Ted Cummings, and Republican Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, viewed the document as a literal road map for Christian domination.
“The document specifically contemplates overthrowing ‘tyranny,’ but it quickly defines a ‘tyrant’ as ‘someone who rules without God.’ Thus, it appears to call for violence against any political leader who does not share Shea’s personal religious views,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that advocates for separation of church and state, said in a statement Thursday. “By Shea’s definition, the United States, a secular democracy founded on a godless constitution, is tyrannical and meant to be overthrown.”
Newsweek, Vice News and the New York Daily News were among national outlets that published stories about Shea on Wednesday and Thursday. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow also weighed in on Twitter, writing, “GOP state legislator up for re-election in Washington State circulates manifesto calling for genocidal war against non-Christians.”
Cummings said that attention apparently triggered a wave of small contributions to his campaign, just five days before the general election. They included $5 from Pinole, California, $200 from Tampa, Florida, and $400 from Mercer Island, Washington.
More donations rolled in from across Washington and from Brooklyn, New York; Portland, Pittsburgh, San Antonio and Los Angeles. Cummings said the donations on Wednesday and Thursday totaled nearly $1,300.
That’s a relatively small amount, and unlikely to make a meaningful difference in the race, but Cummings saw it as a sign that people were recognizing Shea as unfit for office.
“I think the whole nation is watching what goes on here in the 4th (Legislative District) and whether we have the integrity and the intelligence to vote this guy out of office,” Cummings said.
Shea also has faced backlash from some of his own donors. The political arm of the Northwest Credit Union Association, which represents more than 180 credit unions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, gave $1,000 to Shea’s campaign before the August primary but recently asked the campaign to return the money.
“His beliefs do not reflect the views and values of the NWCUA, our member credit unions, or the consumers who are credit union members,” Lynn Heider, the association’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement.
The Washington Association of Realtors, which donated $2,000 to Shea’s campaign, followed suit on Thursday, saying the group wanted a refund and that its name should be removed from Shea’s campaign materials.
“We believe that Washington state needs strong inclusive leadership on both sides of the aisle,” Nathan Gorton, the association’s government affairs director, said in a statement. “Those values – our values – are not reflected in Rep. Shea’s recent writings.”
Later Thursday, Leland Kim, a spokesman for AT&T, said in an email: “We have reviewed the news reports and the document, and have concluded that Rep. Shea’s statements are divisive and do not reflect our core values of inclusion and equality. We will not be making any future contributions to Rep. Shea’s campaign and will ask that he return the $1,000 we contributed to his campaign earlier this year.”
The Washington Hospitality Association, meanwhile, said recent comments by Shea were “deeply offensive” but acknowledged it’s probably too late to recover the $1,000 campaign donation made by the group’s political action committee.
“Unfortunately we endorsed and contributed to Rep. Shea’s campaign before the August primary and before his comments were made public,” the association said in a statement. “As a member-based organization we are currently reaching out to our members on how they would like us to move forward.”
Upon learning of the “Biblical Basis for War” document nearly two months ago, Knezovich said he turned it over to the FBI. It’s not the first time the sheriff has accused Shea of spreading extremism. But other elected Republicans appear unwilling to publicly criticize Shea.
A message left with the Washington State Republican Party on Thursday was not returned. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers – who has Shea’s endorsement in her race against Democrat Lisa Brown – refused to comment on the matter.
Former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite, who ran against Shea during his first run for office in 2008, said too many Republicans support Shea because of his business-friendly policy agenda, while ignoring his more problematic views and affiliations.
“If they’re Republican, they like the way he votes. And I can’t, for the life of me, understand why they don’t look at all the other stuff he gets into,” said Wilhite, who has long been active in the Republican Party. “At some point, character has to count.”
Josh Arritola, who challenged Shea as a Republican in 2014, added that Shea has an extremely loyal base.
“It was a crazy race,” Arritola said of the 2014 contest. “His crazy followers will harass you. It is brutal – brutal – running against him.”
KHQ reporter Patrick Erickson contributed to this report.