Controversial Spokane Valley state Rep. Matt Shea, who was suspended from the House Republican caucus after an investigation concluded he had engaged in domestic terrorism, will not seek reelection this fall.
Shea did not file to run again for the Legislature as the candidate filing deadline for the August primary expired Friday afternoon, said Mike McLaughlin, elections manager for the Spokane County Auditor’s Office. Shea did, however, file to run as a Republican precinct committee officer.
The surprise development came after Shea had for months defiantly refused calls from Republican and Democratic leaders to resign, vowing to fight on and not bow down to what he called “a coup” against him.
Shea’s decision came after a House-commissioned investigation released in December concluded the lawmaker planned and participated in domestic terrorism against the United States with his involvement in a trio of standoffs against the government.
That report — which was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI – alleged the Shea assisted “in the planning and preparation” of the 2016 armed takeover at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. It also examined Shea’s travel to the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, and a 2015 conflict in Bonner County, Idaho.
Shea — a military veteran and attorney first elected in 2008 to the 4th Legislative District — denied the report’s allegations. He railed against the investigation, calling it a “Marxist smear campaign.”
After the legislative session ended in March, he resumed raising money for reelection, and even appeared in Olympia last Saturday to speak at a protest against Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. There, he led the crowd in a chant of “Freedom is the cure.”
Just a few days ago, state officials said they billed Shea for more than $4,700 in damages after the lawmaker apparently poured olive oil along the steps of the Capitol in the waning days of the legislative session as part of a counter-demonstration of a permitted event held by Satanists. Shea could not be reached for comment.
There were no other major shockers by the filing deadline.
Inslee will face the most crowded challenger field of his tenure as he seeks a third term, with 36 other candidates filing for the office.
That number includes 11 Republicans, plus three who listed themselves as “Trump Republicans,” one who called himself a “Pre-2016 Republican,” three other Democrats besides Inslee, and an array of little-known independents and minor-party candidates.
That’s a giant assortment compared with the nine candidates who ran in the gubernatorial primary in 2012, when Inslee won his first term, and the 11 who ran in 2016, when he won reelection.
In all, nearly 700 candidates filed with the Secretary of State’s office by the Friday deadline, setting up candidate fields for all of Washington’s statewide elected offices, including an open-seat contest for lieutenant governor, most state legislative seats, 10 congressional races and hundreds of judicial races.
The top two vote-getters in each race in the Aug. 4 primary — regardless of party — will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
By far the best known of the GOP candidates for governor is Tim Eyman, the longtime anti-tax activist who is making his first bid for elected office after decades of working to slash government funding through dozens of voter initiatives.
Other Republican challengers also have demonstrated a measure of support among donors and activists, including former Bothell mayor and real estate developer Joshua Freed, who has raised more than $580,000, compared with about $180,000 for Eyman, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Freed’s fundraising totals include more than $190,000 of his own money.
Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, Ferry County, who attracted attention for refusing to enforce a voter-approved 2018 gun-control initiative, has raised nearly $295,000, including $34,000 from small donors, the most of any GOP gubernatorial candidate.
State Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, has raised about $150,000 for his candidacy, while Anton Sakharov, a program manager from Maple Valley who identified himself for the ballot as a “Trump Republican,” has raised $22,000, including $4,200 of his own money. None of the other Republican or minor party candidates reported raising significant amounts of money.
Inslee, who returned to a third-term bid after unsuccessfully campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more than $3 million for his reelection campaign and had $1.3 million cash on hand as of the end of April, according to a PDC filing.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic paved the way for the larger candidate pack, as Inslee signed an executive order waiving a signature-gathering requirement for candidates who want to avoid filing fees. Those fees are normally set at 1% of the salary of the office being sought — which means $1,822 to run for governor.
Republicans have not won a governor’s race in Washington since 1980, when John Spellman defeated then-state Sen. Jim McDermott.
Still, Republicans say they see a 2020 opening, arguing the longer Inslee extends his “stay-home” order shutting down most workplaces despite increasing calls for loosening restrictions, the more voters may turn against him.
“I still believe that Governor Inslee is vulnerable,” said Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. “The way he has governed during this crisis leaves a lot of people frustrated.”
Heimlich also pointed to failed Inslee’s presidential run, saying voters want someone who isn’t looking for another job, and he criticized major tax increases supported by the governor, who had promised during his 2012 campaign to oppose new taxes.
State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski said she’s confident Inslee will have no problem being reelected, pointing to polls showing solid majorities support the way Inslee has handled the coronavirus crisis, and to the unpopularity of President Donald Trump in Washington.
She said top GOP candidates have flouted public health advice by attending “crazy rallies” at the Capitol to protest Inslee’s stay-home order, and predicted Eyman will get past the primary on name-identification alone.
“That’s fun for me. Bring it on!” Podlodowski said, pointing to baggage she said the initiative promoter would carry.
Eyman still faces a long-running Attorney General’s Office lawsuit charging him with illegally pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in initiative campaign donations. He has filed for bankruptcy and paid more than $330,000 in contempt penalties as a result of the case.
Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib’s decision to leave politics and join the Jesuit religious order spurred 11 candidates to file for his office, including U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, who had announced his retirement from Congress but jumped at the chance to run for the state position. His Democratic rivals include state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood and Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.
On the Republican side, candidates include former Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri; Joseph Brumbles, who ran unsuccessfully ran for Congress two years ago, and Ann Sattler, who ran unsuccessfully for Seattle City Council last year.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, seeking a third term, will face challengers including Republican attorneys Mike Vaska and Matt Larkin.
In what will likely be a hard-fought and expensive contest, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, faces a challenge from state Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle.
Among Washington’s U.S. House delegation, incumbents of both parties avoided any big-name challengers.
Democrats are targeting Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, the Republican representing the 3rd Congressional District in southwest Washington. Political science professor Carolyn Long, who lost a surprisingly competitive race to Herrera Beutler two years ago, is running again, with more early backing this year from national Democrats.
The hottest congressional primary race is set to play out in Washington’s 10th District. Nineteen candidates filed to run for Heck’s seat. The major Democratic contenders include former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, state Rep. Beth Doglio, D-Olympia, and former state Rep. Kristine Reeves of Federal Way. Phil Gardner, district director for Heck’s office, is also running as a Democrat.
Joshua Collins, a self-described socialist truck driver who has raised substantial amounts of money through online appeals, is running under an “Essential Workers” party label. Among several Republicans who filed for the seat, Nancy Slotnick, a militery veteran and small-business owner, has raised the most money, at $28,000.
A full list of candidates who filed for office is available at the Secretary of State’s website: voter.votewa.gov/CandidateList.aspx
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Jim McDermott as a state representative when he ran for governor in 1980. He was a state senator.