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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Calls for Shea resignation continue but House leaders don’t have backup plan

State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, speaks at the Capitol in Olympia in this photo from 2012 (Elaine Thompson / AP)
State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, speaks at the Capitol in Olympia in this photo from 2012 (Elaine Thompson / AP)

OLYMPIA – Legislative leaders of both parties repeated their calls Thursday for Rep. Matt Shea to resign but did not agree on a next step if he continues to insist he won’t.

Gov. Jay Inslee also said the six-term Spokane Valley lawmaker should step down, contending voters in the district “need a full-time, functioning, effective person.”

At a preview of the upcoming 2020 legislative session sponsored by the Associated Press, Speaker-designate Laurie Jinkins and House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox were asked what lawmakers would do about Shea, who was accused last month of taking part in activity that could be considered domestic terrorism by independent investigators hired by the House.

Wilcox, R-Yelm, said House Republicans levied the only sanction at their disposal by removing him from their caucus. Their leadership announced that decision the day the report by the Rampart Group was released. Anything else is really in the hands of Democrats, who hold 57 seats in the 98-member House, he said.

“He’s not a House Republican,” Wilcox said. “He has no official contact with us.”

Jinkins, D-Tacoma, who has been selected as the next speaker by Democrats and is scheduled to be elected to that office Monday, said Shea should be expelled if he doesn’t resign.

“I don’t know how this will end up,” she said. “We would have to make sure we have the votes to do that.”

Even if all 57 Democrats voted to remove Shea from the House, they’d need at least nine Republicans to vote with them. The state Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to expel a sitting legislator, and it’s only happened once, nearly 90 years ago in a case that involved a felony conviction, Wilcox noted.

Shea has not been convicted or charged with a crime.

“We’d have to set up a process,” Jinkins said. “Rep. Shea deserves another chance to be heard.”

Shea and his attorney declined to talk to investigators who prepared the report, and he has declined interview requests with The Spokesman-Review. On social media posts, he has labeled it a “sham investigation” similar to the one against President Donald Trump, and claimed it ignored witnesses who could have disproved its conclusions.

In a separate news conference, Inslee said he was “extremely disturbed” by the results of what he considered a thorough investigation that “concluded he was involved in domestic terrorism.”

“It is very difficult for me to understand how he can effectively represent the interests of the people of Spokane County now that he has been thrown out of the caucus, he has been denied committee membership,” Inslee said. “I think they need a full-time, functioning, effective person who is not a domestic terrorist.”

Shea has had relatively easy re-election campaigns most years in his strongly Republican district. This year he has a Republican and a Democratic challenger already announced.

On Thursday, Republican challenger Leonard Christian, who served one session in the Legislature as an appointee to a vacant seat, announced he has secured a formal endorsement from Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a fellow conservative and longtime Shea critic. Christian has previously called on Shea to resign.

Lori Feagan, a Spokane Valley nurse practitioner running for the seat as a Democrat, said House lawmakers should expel Shea “as their first order of business.”

“He has not put the safety and well-being of our district first,” Feagan said in a news release. “His removal from the GOP caucus renders him even less effective. The 4th LD deserves to be represented, not further embarrassed.”

Staff writer Chad Sokol contributed to this report.

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