Longtime area lawmaker offers insight and perspective in Clark County GOP’s decision for Lincoln Day Dinner speaker

Former Representative Liz Pike shares her thoughts on embattled Rep. Matt Shea

Leave it to former Washington state lawmaker and Camas resident Liz Pike to offer the most insight, depth and perspective on a controversial topic impacting the conversations of Clark County citizens.

Rep. Matt Shea
Rep. Matt Shea

For the past month, Clark County residents have debated the wisdom of the selection of Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) to emcee the annual Lincoln Day Gala and Auction, to be held this year on April 25 at the ilani Casino in Ridgefield. The decision was made by Clark County Republican Party Chairman Earl Bowerman.

Bowerman and others have been strongly criticized for the decision to have the embattled lawmaker serve as the Master of Ceremonies for such an important fundraiser for the Clark County GOP. A report published Dec. 1, 2019 accused Shea of taking part in domestic terrorism (more on that report later).

It’s important to note that Shea has not been charged with any crime. His fellow Republicans did boot him out of their internal caucus and he was removed from the three committees on which he serves in Olympia. House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) has called on Shea to resign, even though voters in Spokane Valley’s 4th Legislative District have re-elected him four times since he first won election to the House in 2008.

Not only did Bowerman and the Clark County GOP select Shea to emcee the Lincoln Day Dinner and Auction, they seemingly double-downed on their position on Feb. 12 when the CCRP board passed a resolution that Rep. Shea be reinstated to his previous full capacity by the Washington State House Republican Caucus. That resolution is scheduled to be presented to the assembled PCO’s for their affirmation at the March 16 quarterly meeting.

Efforts to expel Shea from the Washington Legislature are thought to be over, at least for now. On Feb. 21, The Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that all 98 members of the House of Representatives were asked on Feb. 20 to sign a letter calling for Shea’s expulsion. All 56 House Democrats signed the letter, but no Republicans did.

At this point, even if you hadn’t previously been made aware of the controversy over Shea being named the emcee for the Lincoln Day Dinner, you shouldn’t be surprised that it exists. Before I bury the lede (or lead) any further, despite being a Republican and Conservative icon in Clark County, Pike respectfully disagrees with the decision to have Shea speak at the fundraiser.

Liz Pike
Liz Pike

Pike offered her thoughts on the subject in a discussion in a private Facebook group. I contacted her and received her permission to share some of those thoughts here, including her belief “that local GOP party leaders should not have selected Rep. Matt Shea as the emcee of its LDD and should have instead invited a local elected Republican to emcee this event. Perhaps one that is up for re-election in 2020.’’ Pike wrote in her Facebook post, while also offering support for the embattled lawmaker.

“There are many County Republican Party organizations across WA that are passing resolutions that urge House GOP leaders to fully reinstate Rep. Shea into the caucus,’’ Pike wrote. “I agree with this resolution. Clark County PCOs will decide this at their upcoming quarterly meeting and I hope the majority votes in favor.’’

I agree with Pike. As I have stated many times, let the voters decide on a candidate when the next election rolls around.

“This fall, the voters of the 4th Legislative District will decide if they want to keep Rep. Shea as their elected representative and it is only they who should decide, not the House Republican leaders,’’ Pike wrote. “As individuals, we each have a right to our opinion of Rep. Matt Shea. In Clark County we have many fine elected Republicans who would do a fine job with a mic at Lincoln Day Dinner.’’

While I have the utmost respect and appreciation for Pike, and am happy to share her informed and experienced perspective on this and most subjects, I do disagree with her somewhat on the Clark County GOP’s decision. Giving the platform to a Clark County Republican up for re-election makes tremendous sense to me, so I understand that point.

Pike didn’t say so, but others have pointed out it’s bad optics for the Clark County GOP to align itself with Shea, that fundraising could be negatively impacted and Republicans up for re-election could even be held accountable by voters. I wouldn’t want that to be the case for a decision on Shea. I’m tired of politicians making decisions out of fear. I’m tired of political ideology being homogenized for the same reason. I want leaders who will stand by their beliefs and convictions and be willing to accept the consequences, good or bad.

Pike describes Shea as that type of a politician.

“We served together in the WA State House for six years,’’ Pike wrote. “Rep. Shea is a good man, an honest politician, (which is far too rare these days), and he has a heart for the people he serves in Spokane Valley. Shea and I also served together on the House Environment and Transportation policy Committees. I sat right next to him at my House Floor Desk for the first few years I was in Olympia.

“Legislators spend a lot of time in policy committees and on the House Floor when it comes time to debate and vote on bills,’’ Pike added. “I got to know Rep. Matt Shea as a colleague and as a friend. One time, I voted for something that he voted against. He opened his drawer at our connected floor desks and handed me a red M&M. That was his subtle way of telling me he didn’t agree with my vote. Something about red communism! It still makes me laugh when I think about it. I suppose our votes were identical most of the time, because I was only given a few red M&Ms.’’

Pike went on to offer a peak behind the legislative curtain, explaining perhaps why Shea is embattled in his own party.

“During my three terms in the House, Rep. Shea and Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) were far and away the best floor speakers in the Republican caucus,’’ Pike added. “They were both brilliant leaders and certainly a threat to those who occupied the top leadership posts in our caucus. In Olympia, something weird happens to a lot of legislators. They get to the State Capitol and all that marble gets to them. They start thinking about how important they will be if they are in caucus leadership positions. Having the posh corner office sometimes becomes more important than fighting for Republican causes. That’s when good people do bad things.

“Often when conservative superstars joined our caucus, leadership felt the need to control them; instead of encouraging strong, principled leadership among caucus members,’’ Pike wrote. “Often these new rising star members were quickly maligned. I did not agree with the Republican leadership’s decision to demand Rep. Manweller resign due to ‘allegations’ from three decades earlier. And I spoke up to defend Manweller while I was still a member of that caucus. I imagine he was just too much of a threat to those at the top so they did what they could to get rid of him. And they succeeded.’’

In that vein, Pike believes Shea has “become a problem’’ for Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox.

“I will finish this thread by saying I know Rep. Matt Shea. He is a leader. He has tens of thousands of followers across the state because of his unwavering stances to protect the unborn, preserve religious freedom and protect constitutional liberty,’’ Pike wrote.

Pike also added some insight into the authors of the report that has led to Shea’s political problems — Paul Leodler and Kathy Leodler, senior investigators of the Rampart Group.

“This husband and wife team are known political contributors to some of the most liberal Democrats in the state,’’ Pike wrote. “They were not a non-biased neutral third party and certainly should not have been hired to do this ‘investigation.’”