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Meet the Democrat and the Republican looking to unseat Matt Shea

Serious candidates from both parties have already declared their intent to challenge the embattled state representative in 2020.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) already has two challengers for his seat in the Washington State House, including one from his own party.

Shea was the subject of an independent investigation commissioned by the House which found, among other startling conclusions, that "Shea participated in an act of domestic terrorism."

Immediately following the release of the report Thursday afternoon, the House GOP booted Shea from the caucus and all committees. He still has his voting privileges as a representative, but can no longer attend caucus meetings, use party staff, or sit on any of the several committees that have significant say over what legislation even gets a vote.

Shea already had a Democratic challenger prior to the report. Lori Feagan is a local nurse making her first run at politics.

"Our representative doesn't represent the people in our district well," she said in an interview with KREM. "And he certainly hasn't been effective over the last several years. So I thought it was time for somebody like me to step up. Someone with a fresh perspective and a different life experience, and somebody that will take care of everybody in the community."

Shea isn't new to serious controversy, and it hasn't hurt him in any prior election, thanks in part to a loyal follower base, one which the report concluded uses intimidation tactics condoned by Shea.

In his six elections, Shea has never received less than 56 percent of the vote. 

But given the extent of the findings released Thursday, and that his own party has distanced itself from Shea, Feagan believes this time will be different.

"I do," she said. "I think that voters are more aware and they're paying more attention to context and to the values of their elected officials rather than just what letter is after their name."

Also new this go-around will be the existence of a serious Republican contender. Shea has faced conservative opponents before, but Leonard Christian is perhaps uniquely poised for the contest.

He's already served in the seat. Christian was briefly appointed to represent Spokane Valley in 2014. He's an air force veteran and longtime Spokane-area realtor.

When asked why he's looking to retake the seat, Christian said "I really enjoyed my time in there in 2014, felt that I was doing really good work, and wanted to go back. But, I wasn't going to run against a sitting Republican."

"And then when the report came out, it was a lot more inclusive and more damning than I thought," said Christian "So I thought boy, the timing's right. We need a good, reasonable Republican in there."

Christian says although he agrees with the way Shea tends to vote, there's more to being a representative than that.

"The majority of his career, he doesn't seem to be focusing on issues in the 4th [district]. He seems to be focusing on issues worldwide," said Christian. "I am going to be focusing strictly on the 4th district and what is best for our folks."

Like Feagan, Christian believes the veracity and publicity of Shea's actions will make this election unique.

"I think the folks in the Valley are starting to open their eyes and wake up to what's going on, and so I believe that this is the year to do it," said Christian.

"I hope that more Republican leaders do the same and join Mr. Christian and I in standing up against the extreme politics of Matt Shea," Feagan said.

It is likely that other Republicans will run. Candidates have until May 15, 2020 to file for the primary.

Regardless of party, the top two vote-receiving candidates in that primary will be the only ones on the November 2020 general election ballot.

Both party establishments appear eager to end Shea's tenure in Olympia.

Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski said in a statement: "We have to be honest about the stakes here: we cannot allow a domestic terrorist to hold office in Washington State. We will continue building up our year-round organizing infrastructure in Spokane so that if Matt Shea even makes it to a general election ballot, he will not win. The people of Spokane Valley deserve better."

Shea, who rarely speaks to the media, did not immediately return a request for comment regarding his opponents.