A nurse practitioner from Spokane Valley is running as a Democrat against state Rep. Matt Shea, saying the 4th Legislative District must avoid “giving in to extremism, fringe political ideology or personal agendas.”
Lori Feagan, 61, has never held elected office but has participated in canvassing efforts with other local Democrats. She hopes to unseat Shea in November 2020.
Feagan announced her candidacy on Monday, just days before the expected release of an investigative report detailing Shea’s interactions with far-right activists and determining, officially, whether the six-term GOP lawmaker has promoted or engaged in political violence.
In addition to exploring ways to surveil and track political opponents and participating in discussions of violence and harassment, Shea has embraced a group that claimed to prepare boys and young men for “biblical” warfare.
He also promotes conspiracy theories about Muslim and Marxist “counter states,” says Christians should play a more dominant role in politics and has affiliated with armed protesters who occupied federal lands in Oregon and Nevada.
“Our current representative just wants to speak with the people who agree with his views, and those views are becoming increasingly extreme,” Feagan said in an interview Tuesday. “And that leaves the majority of us ignored and excluded.”
Feagan has lived in Spokane Valley with her family since she moved from California’s Bay Area nearly 40 years ago. She studied to become a licensed practical nurse at Spokane Community College before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Washington State University.
Feagan said she’s spent more than three decades in health care, including five years caring for vulnerable adults at Eastern State Hospital, 18 years as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Valley Hospital and the past 10 years as a primary care nurse practitioner in Spokane Valley.
She said health care affordability and transportation infrastructure would be among her top priorities as a legislator.
“Mostly, I’m looking forward to getting out and talking to voters and hearing what their priorities are, and also talking with community leaders, both on the city and the county level, to find out what’s important to them,” she said.
The deeply conservative 4th District covers Spokane Valley and the northeast corner of Spokane County, including Green Bluff and parts of the Chattaroy and Colbert areas.
Shea, a 45-year-old lawyer and Army veteran who rarely speaks to reporters, has represented the district since 2008, when he beat two Democrats and two other Republicans to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Schindler.
Shea ran unopposed in 2010, and since then no challenger has come close to unseating him. He topped Democrat Amy Biviano by 13 percentage points in 2012, Republican Josh Arritola by 15 percentage points in 2014, Democrat Scott Stucker by 29 percentage points in 2016 and Democrat Ted Cummings by 15 percentage points in 2018.
Shea maintains a dedicated base of supporters and has faced little opposition from Republican colleagues in the Legislature, though he has lost some institutional support since the last election cycle.
Boeing, Allstate, Avista, BNSF and other big-name donors have pledged to stop contributing to his re-election campaigns.
Spokane Mayor David Condon, a conservative, has joined Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich in declaring Shea unfit for office. So have Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl, several Spokane City Council members, the police and deputies unions, and several local civic groups.
Feagan said challenging Shea’s ideology is not a partisan move but a moral imperative.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe that I could make a difference,” she said.
The state House of Representatives earlier this year commissioned an independent investigation into Shea conducted by the Rampart Group, a private firm headed by a former FBI agent. A final report on that probe has been delivered to House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, and is expected to be made public by Friday.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.