Rep. Matt Shea should resign

State Rep. Matt Shea will best serve his constituents by resigning immediately. He can no longer represent Eastern Washington effectively in Olympia.

Voters knew about many of Shea’s radical extracurricular activities when they handily re-elected the Spokane Valley Republican in 2018. It was a race without a good candidate, but Shea was the incumbent whose views more closely aligned with the generally conservative 4th District.

One can respect the direction of Shea’s beliefs and still categorically reject the extremes to which he takes them. His interest in life, liberty and religion shouldn’t be controversial. Yet respect for diverse ideas and perspectives is absent from so much modern political discourse. Without it, dialogue and compromise become nearly impossible and Americans increasingly polarized.

Shea’s failing is that he has taken a reasonable conception of liberty and limited government and twisted it into a radical extreme that puts him on the fringe, well beyond civil debate and responsible leadership.

The Legislature therefore took the extraordinary step of hiring an independent investigator to look into Shea’s actions. Shea chose not to be interviewed for that investigation.

The report is damning. Among its many troubling findings of “irresponsible and potentially illegal” activities:

  • Shea is a leader in the Patriot Movement who engaged in three armed conflicts against the federal government, one of them an “act of domestic terrorism.”

  • He used intimidation tactics against political opponents and, in secure online chats, condoned violence and offered to do background checks into people he believed opposed his agenda.

  • He advocated a holy war to replace America’s democracy with theocracy, killing all males who didn’t submit.

The report concludes, “Based on evidence obtained in this investigation, it is more probably than not that Representative Shea is likely to plan, direct and engage in additional future conflicts that could carry with them significant risk of bloodshed and loss of life. It is the professional opinion of the Investigators, that on a more probable than not basis, Representative Shea presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”

That was too much for House Republican leaders. On Thursday, they suspended Shea from the GOP caucus and removed him from all committee assignments. He now is persona non grata in the Capitol. Expect no one to work with him on bills when lawmakers convene for the 2020 session on Jan. 13. Expect no one to listen to him speak. He will sit alone in the chamber able to vote on the floor and nothing else.

That is why if he wishes to do one final service to his constituents he will resign immediately. He cannot successfully represent Eastern Washington without committee assignments or a party caucus. If he returns to Olympia in a few weeks, it will be as if his district is short one representative, maybe even worse given how toxic he has become.

If he steps down now, time remains to appoint a replacement who can actively participate in the legislative session. County commissioners would select that replacement from three recommendations by Republican precinct committee officers.

The 4th District extends roughly from Spokane Valley to the Idaho border and north to Mount Spokane.

If Shea puts his ego ahead of his district’s needs, he could still face censure or expulsion – the latter requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the House. But that would take time, and in the case of expulsion would cost precious weeks during which Eastern Washington would lack representation.

If Shea does linger as a ghost in the halls of power, voters must take fresh stock of their options before the 2020 elections. Too many people have concluded that Shea has no place in a position of power. He has been judged by Democrats, Republicans and an independent investigator. If he fights to the bitter end and seeks re-election, the primary will be crucial, given the conservative tilt of his district. Local Republicans therefore should be thinking hard about who their next representative will be. That person might be appointed in a few weeks or might be on the ballot in a few months.

Either way, Shea needs to go if he won’t do the honorable thing and resign.