Washington Democrats are continuing to support a state legislative candidate criticized by his own father for exaggerating his military service record.

The race between Clyde Shavers and state Rep. Greg Gilday, R-Camano, was thrown into turmoil this week when Shavers’ father released a three-page letter stating his son had misrepresented his military service by claiming to have been a nuclear submarine officer.

“Clyde was never a submarine officer, not even for a day,” the elder Shavers wrote in the letter, which also accused his son of having disdain for the military and having few ties to the 10th District in which he is running.

Republicans have pounced on the letter, calling on Democrats to withdraw support for Shavers. But with only a few days to go before ballots are counted, and having poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race, Democratic leaders and an aligned political-action committee this week did not pull their support.

State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, who chairs the House Democratic Campaign Committee, mildly rebuked Shavers in an interview. He said Shavers had “fallen short” of expectations by not clearly describing his military background.

“My expectation going forward is that he learn from this,” Fitzgibbon said.



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In campaign mailers and on his website, Clyde Shavers initially described himself as having “served as a nuclear submarine officer and public affairs officer with tours in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.”

Those references have been changed to say Shavers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and then “commissioned into the nuclear submarine community and later transitioned as a public affairs officer in 2015.”

The discrepancies led the editorial board of the Daily Herald of Everett, which first reported on the allegations, to pull its endorsement of Shavers this week.

“Candidates for public office, because of the trust that is required to represent the interests of the residents of one’s district and the state, must be held to a high standard regarding the veracity of their record and their positions. Shavers has violated that trust,” the board wrote.

Shavers did engage in submarine officer training and served more than six years in the Navy as a public affairs officer. His campaign website now features a statement about the controversy that concludes by saying: “I would like to apologize to any supporter who felt misled by any statement I have made regarding my service record — this was never my intention.”

Shavers has declined interview requests since the story emerged. He issued a statement saying he was estranged from his father and describing his father’s letter as “all about politics.”


He released screenshots of text messages that appear to show his father was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters trying to block certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win attacked the U.S. Capitol.

“While I haven’t spoken to my father for some time, I know that he was at the Capitol on January 6th. This is the kind of politics that’s tearing apart families and communities, and my campaign is about healing and moving forward,” he said in the statement.

Brett Shavers did not respond to a phone message this week. In his letter, he said he had stressed to his son “that he must be truthful” and simply say he’d gone through some submarine training.

The 10th District, which encompasses Whidbey and Camano islands and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties, is a battleground district. The state House seats are split between Gilday, a Republican, and Dave Paul, a Democrat.

Gilday won his 2020 election by fewer than 1,000 votes and trailed Shavers in their summer primary by exactly 1,000 votes. The other House race, between Paul and GOP challenger Karen Lesetmoe, is also closely watched.

Democrats currently control the House by a large majority, 57 to 41, and are mostly playing defense in swing district races this year. They’ve viewed Shavers in the 10th District as one of their best chances to snatch a seat from Republicans.


In addition to the Navy matter, Republicans have blasted Shavers in recent days for describing himself as a “lawyer-attorney” on a state financial disclosure form, despite not having passed the bar exam. Shavers’ campaign said “lawyer-attorney” was the best option provided in an online drop-down menu. Gilday campaign consultant Alex Hays said Shavers could have used a write-in option to be more clear.

“Honesty and integrity are key factors for any elected official. I just don’t think he’s qualified to serve,” Gilday said in an interview Friday. “I’m not disparaging his service … He felt like he needed to embellish it and lie about it.”

When Republican state Rep. Graham Hunt was accused of misrepresenting his military service in 2016, party leaders pressured him to resign and he did, Hays noted, calling that episode “a clear cut example of Republicans behaving more appropriately than the Democrats have.”

That resignation didn’t occur in the midst of a key election campaign, however, and Republican Party activists later elected Hunt as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

In the current race, an independent-spending PAC aligned with Democrats has doubled down, seeking to turn the tables against Gilday by accusing the Republican and his backers of unfairly attacking Shavers.

A mailer this week sponsored by New Direction PAC asks, “What kind of people would lie about a veteran’s service?” and says Gilday voted against lowering health care costs for disabled veterans and their families. The PAC also has launched a website dedicated to the issue, ShaversServed.com, which says Republicans “are smearing the record of a man who has served our country.”


Jared Leopold, a Democratic political consultant for the PAC, said the mailer was sent out earlier this week, “before this story broke.” Still, he defended the PAC’s ongoing support for Shavers.

“New Direction PAC will continue to highlight the choice for voters between Clyde Shavers’ plans to stand up for the people of the 10th District and Greg Gilday’s record of standing with anti-abortion and gun lobby special interests,” Leopold said in a statement.

Shavers’ campaign has reported about $473,000 in expenditures and Gilday’s campaign has reported about $334,000, putting both among the Top 10 best-bankrolled candidates this year.

Their race has also drawn more than $590,000 in independent spending by PACs, ranking No. 5 among legislative contests in that regard. New Direction PAC has spent the most, though a Republican Party PAC called Evergreen Progress has also invested a substantial amount.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon talked directly with Clyde Shavers about his military record. Fitzgibbon says his staff spoke with Shavers.

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