Candidate Gamesmanship, WA State

Last Friday afternoon, May 15 at 4PM, online “candidate filing” closed at the Spokane County Elections Office. Within the following hour a link appeared, Spokane County Candidates Who Have Filed, revealing the names of those eastern Washington candidates running on Spokane County election ballots in the Primary on August 4. There were several surprises, the most startling of which occurred in Washington State Legislative District 4, the area east of the City of Spokane to the Idaho border and north to Mt. Spokane. (See map.)

LD4’s incumbent state legislators are Mike Padden (State Senator), Bob McCaslin (State Rep, Position 2, also known as “McCaslin Junior” to distinguish him from his late father, also an LD4 Rep [see P.S. below]), and the infamous Matt Shea (State Rep, Position 1 [as Senior Representative from the district]).

In a move that surprised many, Matt Shea did not file for election to a 7th term. He had been defiant in the face of growing and nationally circulating evidence of his ties to white supremacy, advocacy for a theocratic “Liberty State,” his and his followers’ preparations for a “Biblical War,” his preaching and association with the Covenant Church and the Marble Community Fellowship, and his involvement with Ammon Bundy and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff. Lately he has been featured leading protest marches in Spokane with assault-weapons-armed folk shoulder-to-shoulder, without face masks, protesting the Covid-19 rules. Shea made news recently when the State presented him with a bill for $4700 for cleanup of the steps at the capitol in Olympia after he and shofar-blowing protesters poured olive oil there. They were performing an “invocation,” summoning their deity to purify the State House in the wake of a peaceful demonstration by the Seattle-based Satanic Temple of Washington.

Instead of filing for LD4, Shea signed up for an unopposed position as the Republican Precinct Officer for PCT 4438 in the southeast corner of the City of Spokane Valley (See map). He is not going to disappear from the scene. Matt Shea will be around giving fiery sermons, leading armed protestors, and plotting his military theocracy. What happens to the money in his campaign kitty bears watching. 

BUT, Shea won’t be in the WA State legislature (as a legislator), at least not for the next two years…

However, Shea’s acolyte and supporter, McCaslin Junior, did file for re-election, but here’s where the gamesmanship appeared: McCaslin Junior waited until 3:47:00PM on Friday to file and then filed not for the Representative position he had held, Position 2, but for Position 1, the seat Shea had occupied.

Political games: Incumbent WA State representatives, if they strategically wait until the last moment, might get to chose their challenger instead of their challenger choosing them. Lori Feagan, a respected Spokane Valley nurse practitioner, filed on Monday, May 11, to run against incumbent Matt Shea and Shea’s declared Republican challenger, Leonard Christian for Position 1. Due to Friday’s political shennanigans, Lori Feagan isn’t running against either Shea or Christian.

Follow the shell game. Ms. Feagan signed up for Position 1 against Shea for on May 11. The same day, Leonard Christian also filed to run against Shea for Position 1. As we come down to the wire at 4PM May 15 there is no sign of Shea at the electronic filing counter. With 13 minutes left, McCaslin Junior cancels his Position 2 filing (the incumbent seat he holds) and files instead for Position 1 against Ms. Feagan. Meanwhile, Leonard Christian swoops in, literally, at the last minute, 3:59:00PM on May 15th, to jump away from opposing McCaslin in Position 1, to opposing Lance Gurel, an accountant who recently ran for City of Spokane Valley City Council, for Position 2. Meanwhile, Rob Chase (right wing Republican, frequent flyer at Northwest Grassroots, and former Spokane County Treasurer), without any announcement of which I was aware, also throws his hat in the ring for Position 2 with 16 minutes, 42 seconds to spare. (I extracted this drama from the County website data you can see here.)

Is your head spinning yet? No wonder a lot of people who get elected have degrees in political science or cozy up to a Party apparatus. 

Final line-up for the LD4 Representatives in the August Primary (omitting candidates with no campaign funds and no name recognition):

Position 1:
Lori Feagan (D)  
McCaslin Junior (R)
and 2 others with little name recognition and no funding reported to the PDC:
Mike Conrad (R)
Dave Whitehead (R)

Position 2:
Lance Gurel (D)
Leonard Christian (R)
Rob Chase (R)
and 2 others with little name recognition and no funding reported to the PDC:
Will DeWitt (Prefers D)
Nathan R Sybrandy (R)

A couple of fine points: If only two file for a position they don’t appear on the Primary ballot. Instead, they advance to the General Election in November automatically. In LD3, for instance, everyone (two candidates for each position) gets a pass to the November General Election. In Washington State elections claiming a preference for one party or another does not require that party to vet or endorse or even recognize the candidate declaring the preference. “Prefers” means only what it says.

For me the gamesmanship on display last Friday in LD4 was an eye-opener. One wonders if all that shifting was coordinated or gamed purely by the individuals. 

One final note: LD4 became even more interesting when, at 3:55:27PM on Friday, John Roskelley threw his hat in the ring to oppose Mike Padden for LD4 State Senator. There is also a “Prefers Independent” candidate, Ann Marie Danimus, so this race will be on the Primary ballot. John Roskelley is a former Spokane County Commissioner, a man of integrity with name recognition as a world class mountaineer. His candidacy in LD4 should make things interesting.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Never forget that Bob McCaslin, Sr. said, “I wish to state that under no circumstances would I support Matthew Shea for any public office.”  in 2011 before he died. In contrast, Bob McCaslin, Jr., (McCaslin Junior) the current LD4 Rep, is an acolyte of Shea’s, while he continues to ride on his father’s name.