Spokane County commissioners could reach a decision on who will replace Bob McCaslin in the state Senate soon.
But it hasn’t exactly been an easy process.
The commissioners planned to interview Jeff Baxter, Roy Murry and Matt Shea all day before possibly making a decision at 3 p.m. in the Human Resources Building training room, 1229 W. Mallon.
Whomever the commissioners choose, however, at least one of the candidates doesn’t have the support of McCaslin. A letter dated Jan. 28 from the former senator, who served in Olympia for 30 years before having to step down last month for health reasons, was included in the packet of information materials the commissioners had gathered on all three hopefuls. In it, McCaslin’s message was short and two the point:
“I wish to state that under no circumstances would I support Matthew Shea for any public office.”
A local attorney, Shea was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008 and re-elected in the 4th District again in 2010. His name topped the list of possible appointees submitted by Spokane County 4th District Republican Precinct Committee officers (PCOs), which included Baxter and Murry as second and third choices, respectively.
It didn’t take long, however, before controversy about the nominees began to heat up. While few doubted Shea would not make the list, there was surprise that Baxter (a local businessman and former write-in candidate for the West Valley School District board of directors) and Murry (a Republican district leader and Army veteran) were picked over former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite and former 4th District legislator and District Court Judge Mike Padden, who had been endorsed by McCaslin.
The commissioners are bound by the state Constitution to pick from the PCOs’ choices. If they don’t make a choice by March 4, that job would then go to Gov. Christine Gregoire, who would also have to choose from the GOP list.
Murry’s chances for an appointment took a hit after he was arrested in Las Vegas at 2:20 in the morning on Jan. 24, where he was charged with sleeping in his car and carrying a concealed 9mm pistol. Ammunition and knives were also found. The police report was also among the materials the commissioners reviewed last Friday.
There was also plenty of material on Shea, including court documents relating to his difficult divorce in 2007 and a five-page sworn statement from Commissioner Todd Mielke, who related a “run in” with Shea during the 2010 legislative session where the representative “demonstrated spontaneous, extreme anger towards me.” Mielke had been in Olympia regarding transportation legislation and said Shea was aggressive and used expletives because he hadn’t been consulted as a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Over the weekend, Shea fired back with a release to his supporters. In the letter – titled “Matt and Viktoriya Shea Saddened by the Politics of Personal Destruction” – which was e-mailed to the News Herald on Monday, Shea says “personal agendas and vicious personal attacks have clouded the issue” and are not only aimed at himself and his wife but also “our constitutional foundations and Christian principles.”
Shea goes on to state he “steadfastly refused to acquiesce to a back room deal” to appoint an “heir” to the 4th District Senate seat and that information released concerning his former marriage have been filled with “outrageous” and “untrue” allegations.
Shea also states that he “(does) not intend” to speak on the subject any further to the press or anyone else.
The commissioners said they have been pressured to make the appointment quickly by party leaders but have had difficulty in getting the appointees to submit information in a timely manner and to schedule interviews.
“We could have been done by now,” said Board Chairman Al French.