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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Endorsement: House candidates in the 4th leave a lot to be desired

Moderate voters in Spokane Valley’s 4th Legislative District probably won’t find much to love among their state House candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Republican incumbents, Matt Shea and Bob McCaslin, are fond of wasting the public’s time on extremist distractions, such as a bid to jettison liberal Western Washington and establish a new state in Eastern Washington called “Liberty.” Their Democratic opponents, meanwhile, are political novices who hold views far to the left of the majority of the district’s voters.

With poor choices all around, we make no recommendation for Position 1 and recommend McCaslin for Position 2.

Position 1: No good choice

Shea, who is seeking his sixth term, faces a challenge from Ted Cummings, who previously ran a long-shot campaign against U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a fellow Democrat, in 2016. He acknowledges his interest in Shea’s activities stretches back only to the beginning of this year.

Cummings is a Kaiser Aluminum employee who raises cattle on a small ranch in his spare time. He has drawn much of his support from unions and says he opposed last year’s short-lived “right to work” proposal. He generally aligns himself with causes more liberal than his deeply red district, which makes the likelihood of his winning this race about the same as his defeating Murray.

Shea, unfortunately, is not a solid choice either. He dwells on the political fringe, championing anti-government causes and embracing conspiracy theories spouted by Infowars’ Alex Jones and others. He makes evidence-free allegations about opponents and repeatedly embarrasses the district with his long-running fight with Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a fellow Republican he once claimed was complicit in a triple homicide.

The ill-tempered Shea, who pulled a gun in a road rage incident in 2011, conjures up a wide range of enemies for his followers to join him in hating, even fashioning a homemade diagram in the shape of an octopus to help them follow along. “This is the network of socialist organizations in downtown Spokane, in our own backyard. Wow. Who knew? Who knew?” Shea said. Who, indeed?

Shea refuses to talk to the mainstream media about his work in the Legislature, preferring to talk to constituents via social media, podcasts and extremist websites. He recently referred to reporters as “dirty, godless, hateful people.”

Once again, we cannot endorse Shea, but we cannot recommend his opponent as a suitable alternative.

Position 2: McCaslin

McCaslin, regrettably, offers only a slightly more palatable candidacy for the 4th District’s other seat in the state House. He is seeking his third term and appears likely to secure it, given that he drew 61 percent of the vote against his challenger, Democrat Mary May, in the August primary.

Like Cummings, May is out of step with the conservative majority in her district on many issues. She served as a city planner in California before moving to the area with her husband in 2007. She worked as a planner in the city of Spokane Valley for seven years and later as a consultant to the governor’s office helping businesses that want to move to Washington.

May says the 4th District is written off by legislators in Olympia because Shea and McCaslin engage in too many distractions, and there’s merit to that claim. But her inexperience and left-of-center views make a poor fit for the district.

McCaslin, a teacher for 31 years, could bring valuable insight to bear in reforming the state’s teacher evaluation system. He says he also wants to create more opportunities for professionals in skilled trades to teach middle school students, an idea worth pursuing.

When not aligning himself with Shea, McCaslin has shown an ability to concentrate on issues that actually matter. He has generally been supportive of the Association of Washington Business’ positions. He’s also expressed a willingness to work with Democrats, a refreshing change of pace for a fellow who wants to cut the state in half to get rid of them.

McCaslin’s late father, who served in the state Senate for 30 years, wisely distanced himself from Shea. We encourage voters to return Rep. McCaslin to Olympia in hopes that he walks away from extremist politics and starts to engage in the genuine work of governing Washington and representing his constituents.

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