State Representative Matt Manweller
State Representative Matt Manweller

Repub­li­can State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Matt Man­weller, who has been bat­tling a series of alle­ga­tions of sex­u­al harass­ment and inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior for years, appears to have final­ly lost the con­fi­dence of his col­leagues in the House Repub­li­can cau­cus fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of a report that he had a sex­u­al rela­tion­ship with a for­mer stu­dent who had not yet turned eigh­teen back in the 1990s.

“I am deeply sad­dened and dis­ap­point­ed by the sto­ry shared in the well doc­u­ment­ed piece from the NW News Net­work. What Matt did was wrong,” said top House Repub­li­can J.T. Wilcox in a state­ment released to the press.

“Our Lead­er­ship team has asked Matt to resign from his posi­tion as state rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Our entire cau­cus will dis­cuss this issue ear­ly next week.”

Pre­vi­ous­ly, Wilcox had declined the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sev­er ties with Man­weller, say­ing in a state­ment issued only a few weeks ago, “Matt was elect­ed to his posi­tion as state rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Vot­ers decide who rep­re­sents them.”

That’s true enough, but real lead­er­ship involves lead­ing peo­ple to new posi­tions, not falling back on state­ments like “Vot­ers decide who rep­re­sent them”.

As the top Repub­li­can in the state House, Wilcox holds the title of Repub­li­can Leader. He has a duty and oblig­a­tion not only to his cau­cus but to the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State to take action when one of his mem­bers is accused of wrong­do­ing, as Man­weller has been. It’s unfor­tu­nate that it has tak­en so long for Wilcox and his lead­er­ship team to con­clude that Man­weller should resign.

The House Repub­li­cans have known for a long time about the alle­ga­tions against Man­weller, but have cho­sen not to act. Man­weller’s ex-wife Ora­Lynn Reeve went on the record late last year about her rela­tion­ship, saying: “My truth, my sto­ry, is that I had a man that’s twelve years old­er than me, as a teacher in a posi­tion of pow­er, take advan­tage of me, groom me to be a tro­phy wife and prey on my insecurities.”

Should Man­weller step down, a suc­ces­sor could be appoint­ed with­in a few weeks who would then assume his duties. How­ev­er, that indi­vid­ual would only serve out the remain­der of Man­weller’s cur­rent term, which is almost over. Man­weller’s name will still be on the Novem­ber bal­lot because Wilcox and his cau­cus did­n’t recruit anoth­er Repub­li­can to run for the posi­tion back when they had the chance.

Man­weller was recent­ly fired from Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty after the uni­ver­si­ty con­clud­ed that he had a pat­tern of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior. Man­weller is now suing the uni­ver­si­ty for wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion and is seek­ing a $2 mil­lion payout.

In the mean­time, he’s cam­paign­ing for reelec­tion. Last month, he received 63% of the vote in the Top Two elec­tion. He’ll face Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Sylvia Ham­mond again in the gen­er­al elec­tion, for which some bal­lots have already been mailed.

Man­weller was first elect­ed to the Wash­ing­ton State House in 2012. He rep­re­sents the heav­i­ly Repub­li­can 13th Dis­trict, which includes Ellens­burg, and was part of the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship team until he took leave from his duties in response to the esca­lat­ing alle­ga­tions against him. Democ­rats have been call­ing on Man­weller to step down for a long time, but Repub­li­cans have resist­ed join­ing in… until today.

As an elect­ed offi­cial, Man­weller has made a name for him­self vocif­er­ous­ly oppos­ing leg­is­la­tion craft­ed to improve the lives of work­ing people.

His dia­tribes against equal pay for equal work and high­er wages have been dubbed exer­cis­es in man­weller­splain­ing, a play on mansplain­ing.

Man­weller’s his­to­ry of dis­turb­ing behav­ior extends beyond propo­si­tion­ing young women. In 2010, he got into a brawl in the park­ing lot of KXLE AM 1240 after sar­cas­ti­cal­ly sug­gest­ing for­mer Kit­ti­tas May­or Fred Huber  con­front him out­side the sta­tion fol­low­ing a tap­ing of his pro­gram, “The Right Opin­ion”. Man­weller had pre­vi­ous­ly insult­ed Huber’s wife on-air and then sparred with Fred when he called in. Man­weller suf­fered a bro­ken hand and an ear bite from the fight.

In our view, Matt Man­weller does­n’t belong in the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives or any posi­tion of pub­lic respon­si­bil­i­ty. It’s very dis­ap­point­ing that the Repub­li­can Par­ty has pro­tect­ed him for so long. We hope those days are final­ly com­ing to an end. Wash­ing­to­ni­ans deserve better.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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