Rep. Matt Shea—the far-right Washington legislator who has been working with secessionist “Patriot”/militia movement figures to form a Christian nationalist 51st state—quietly dropped the news over the weekend that after months of struggling with Republican leaders in the state House and insisting he be allowed to hang onto his seat, with militia organizers coming to his defense, he won’t be running for reelection after all.
Shea failed to file to run again by Friday’s deadline, according to the Spokane County Auditor’s office. However, he remained mum about his reasons for doing so—as well as about any future political plans, which are rumored to include running for Congress against incumbent Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
After an independent investigation of Shea’s activities with various far-right factions around the region concluded that he likely participated in domestic terrorism, Shea fought with Republican leadership—which stripped him of his seniority and committee assignments, and denied him use of state caucus staff—to keep his seat. His desk was moved to the last row on the House floor.
Shea defiantly refused calls from both Republican and Democratic leaders to resign, calling the entire matter a “coup” against him and vowing to fight on. Militiamen held rallies in Seattle and Olympia calling for “Patriots” to rise to his defense. Democrats made an attempt to remove him officially from the House this winter, but received no GOP support to do so. The state Constitution requires a two-thirds vote for expulsion, so the matter was believed to be in the hands of the voters.
The way the filings fell into place Friday indicated that Republican officials had been aware of this outcome and arranged for a shuffle that would likely keep the seat—from an extremely conservative district in Spokane Valley—in GOP hands. Shea’s ultra-conservative Republican seatmate in the district, Robert McCaslin, filed to run for Shea’s former No. 1 position in the district, meaning the Democrat who had filed to run against Shea would instead be facing a different incumbent Republican. Meanwhile, other conservative Republicans filed for McCaslin’s former No. 2 spot.
Shea’s future plans are unclear. While he did file to run as a Republican precinct committee officer, he was also rumored to be considering a primary run for McMorris Rodgers’ seat, according to the Spokesman-Review.
However, it also looks likely that Shea will turn his attention to his long-running efforts to create a 51st state called “Liberty,” formed from the eastern half of Washington state, with the support of the same “Patriot” faction that had come to his defense during the fight over his House seat. He’d earlier helped organize a county-by-county campaign to gain support for secession.
Despite the quiet end of his reelection plans, Shea has been very publicly vocal this week. On Friday in Spokane, he participated in a protest of Gov. Jay Inslee’s shelter-in-place order at which he ranted:
Tyranny is a disease—a virus, if you will. And I submit to you that we should tell Governor Inslee today that it is our aim to quarantine tyrants in America! The idea that cowardice and coddling and capitulation is the right way to go is hateful to Americans, to real Americans. Because the Marines didn’t wade through the mud and the blood at Tarawa so that we could grovel for our rights from the king’s table! Come on!
He also participated in a March 6 protest of the stay-in-place orders during which he apparently poured a bottle of olive oil on the granite steps of the state Capitol in a symbolic response to the presence of a group from the Satanic Church of Washington as counter-protesters. This week, he was billed more than $4,700 for damage to the stairs and walkway around the domed Legislative Building.
This was hardly the first time Shea has engaged in antics involving the state Capitol. In 2015, he helped pioneer the “Patriot” movement tactic of bringing guns into state capitol buildings when he led a faction of armed protesters into the Legislative Building while protesting new state rules prohibiting weapons in the House and Senate chambers. That tactic has been very popular among pandemic denialists who are protesting stay-at-home measures at various capitols around the country, most notably in Michigan.