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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Tina Podlodowski: Washington GOP has many reasons to oust Shea

By Tina Podlodowski Washington State Democrats Central Committee

If they aren’t already, Washington state’s Republicans should be on daily conference calls discussing what to do about Matt Shea.

After years of looking the other way, Republicans can no longer ignore the Spokane Valley representative’s radical extremism and blatant encouragement of white nationalism, and its targeting of mosques, black churches and synagogues around the nation. Just last weekend, a woman at a synagogue was killed by a terrorist who cited anti-Semitic rhetoric, the same hate espoused by groups linked with Shea and his friends.

Matt Shea is the rotting carcass stinking up the Republicans’ back rooms, and this is not the time to look the other way. Trump’s FBI Director Christopher Wray calls the danger of white supremacy and white nationalist extremists in America “significant and a persistent, pervasive threat.” As the Republican-endorsing Seattle Times notes, saying nothing guarantees becoming a party to the reprehensible views that Shea and his friends espouse.

For Republicans still wondering what to do with a state representative who encourages his audiences to “arm themselves ahead of a looming civil war,” participates in conversations planning surveillance and violence against political opponents, and is an outspoken leader at extremist events, I have a few suggestions.

First, kick Matt Shea out of the Republican Caucus, blocking his racist influence on critical legislative and policy discussions impacting all of us. House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox promised last week that the caucus would investigate Shea once the session ended (it ended last Sunday). Republicans banned Sen. Pam Roach from their caucus for “mistreating staff” and “personal hostility and anger” a few years ago. Surely Shea’s participation in the incitement of violence and surveillance of political opponents rises to this level.

Next, remove Shea from the Washington GOP, blocking his access to party resources and voter lists, opening the spot to a less toxic primary opponent. Caleb Heimlich, my GOP counterpart, is smart enough to know the longer they back Shea, the more it makes his seat vulnerable to a Democrat, and it’s no secret we’re already successfully raising funds to support a challenger. Sure, kicking Shea out may alienate the more radical, racist factions, but it’s what they must do to save the Republican Party of Dan Evans and John Spellman.

Stop validating or “staying strategically silent” about Matt Shea. This means you, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Secretary of State Kim Wyman. All Republicans should reject his past endorsements and issue condemning statements. To date, only Democrats, starting with Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, have openly criticized Shea’s shocking behavior.

Real media outlets must not give Matt Shea fluffy airtime; he is notorious for ignoring reporters’ tough questions. A KIRO radio affiliate recently provided Shea with free airtime to defend himself, without serious challenges to his false claims of innocence. There is no good reason for advertisers to support on-air personalities providing a public soapbox for Shea’s hate speech, and Shea’s perpetual white-nationalist narrative of “victimhood.”

Finally, political donors and PACs must stop giving money to Matt Shea, especially in light of Public Disclosure Commission complaints that Shea passed their money on to radical extremist groups in other states. Shea’s top donors, including Avista, Novartis, Altria and Monsanto, should know better. They should demand refunds from Shea, and if state Republicans don’t do something about Shea now, individual donors should stop giving to GOP party PACs as well.

Maybe Republican leaders will delay, deny and obfuscate, hoping voters and the media will soon turn to another scandal. But the problem of Matt Shea isn’t mere political gossip. The Washington Republican Party must act now – for the sake of all of us – to rid our political system of blights like Matt Shea. If they don’t, we Democrats must make sure Shea’s stench follows them into the 2020 elections.

Tina Podlodowski is chair of the Washington State Democrats Central Committee.

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