SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Democrats in the state House of Representatives on Friday demanded that conservative Republican Rep. Matt Shea be reprimanded for far-right speech and activities.
A letter to House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm also demanded that Shea, of Spokane Valley, be removed as the top Republican on the House Committee on Environment and Energy. Shea did not reply to messages seeking comment Friday.
Wilcox responded in a letter to Democrats Friday afternoon that the “House Democratic Caucus is demanding action now, purporting to know exactly what Representative Shea has said and done, and what is in his heart and mind. At this juncture, imposing summary action prior to investigation does not appear necessary, as session has concluded and committees are not presently meeting.”
Democrats contend that Shea’s direct involvement in extremist activities erodes the state’s ideals of fairness and equality.
“During the fall of 2017, Representative Shea communicated with political extremists who sought to violently disrupt the protests of people with opposing points of view,” the letter said.
The Guardian newspaper previously reported it had obtained the contents of internet chats from 2017 involving Shea and three other men proposing to confront “leftists” with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation
“These discussions among these extremists included their suggestion to grab a ‘fist full of hair’ and to ‘face slam’ a protester into a Jersey barrier, followed by ‘shaving her bald with a K-Bar USMC field knife,'” the letter said.
“Other heinous threats too vile to describe here were made during these text communications,” the letter said. “Representative Shea did not speak out against, and thus tacitly approved, the tortures and other violence discussed.”
The letter also said the House, led by Democrats, will conduct an independent investigation of Shea to determine if additional action in warranted.
Previously, Wilcox had said the GOP will review Shea’s actions.
In the chats, Shea appeared to offer to perform background checks on political opponents. He did not appear to disagree when others suggested violence. The group also discussed additional tactics of surveillance and intimidation, including targeting the daycare locations of political opponents’ children.
“Through his words and actions, Representative Shea has aligned himself with voices that seek to erode the very ideals of our democracy,” the letter said.
Shea, who rarely speaks to the press, is a lawyer who represents a deeply conservative district.
He has served in the state House since 2008, and has embraced far-right conspiracy theories, mingled with militia groups and visited right-wing activists who seized a wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016.
The military veteran attracted international attention in 2018 after a document he wrote laid out a “biblical basis for war” against people who practiced same-sex marriage and abortion and instructed: “If they do not yield, kill all males.”
Shea lost some political donors and was stripped of his role as chair of the Republican caucus after that. But he has since introduced bills to criminalize abortion and roll back gun laws.
He has also pushed for eastern Washington to secede and create a 51st state called Liberty.