Enhanced video still of Matt Shea offering a blessing with Nadine Woodward
Enhanced video still of Matt Shea offering a blessing with Nadine Woodward (Video recorded by Joseph Peterson, video still enhanced by NPI)

Spokane May­or Nadine Wood­ward’s polit­i­cal future is look­ing increas­ing­ly bleak after an appear­ance along­side white suprema­cist Matt Shea, a for­mer state leg­is­la­tor, at a Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ist ral­ly in Spokane on Sun­day, August 20th.

Dur­ing “Let Us Wor­ship”, Wood­ward and oth­er Repub­li­cans gath­ered onstage to receive a bless­ing from Shea, fol­low­ing a thun­der­ous ser­mon replete with fire and brim­stone metaphors. (Joseph Peter­son, a local design­er who cap­tured much of the events on video and post­ed them to Twit­ter, reports the group “ask­ing God to ‘Sweep our city like a fire sweeps through the woods.’”)

The ral­ly was held as smoke from two dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires enveloped the city: the Ore­gon Road fire near Elk and the Gray Fire fire in Med­ical Lake.

Both fires result­ed in enor­mous struc­tur­al dam­age. The Gray Fire dis­placed an esti­mat­ed 5,000 peo­ple in a coun­ty already strug­gling beneath the weight of a hous­ing cri­sis. On Sat­ur­day morn­ing, Mead’s air qual­i­ty index (AQI) exceed­ed 500, mark­ing it as a city with some of the worst air qual­i­ty in the world.

As of press time, the Ore­gon Road Fire had burned 10,817 acres and is 83% con­tained. The Gray Fire, which incin­er­at­ed 10,085 acres and destroyed 240 homes, is 93% con­tained. The fires, which also claimed sev­er­al lives, were declared a state-lev­el emer­gency by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

Wood­ward attempt­ed to dis­tance her­self from Shea fol­low­ing the event.

“I am deeply dis­turbed that Matt Shea chose to politi­cize a gath­er­ing of thou­sands of cit­i­zens who joined togeth­er yes­ter­day to pray for fire vic­tims and first respon­ders,” said Wood­ward, in one of her few pub­lic state­ments since the event. “I attend­ed the event with one pur­pose only and that was to join with fel­low cit­i­zens to begin the heal­ing process.”

These com­ments were met with increduli­ty across the Inland North­west, giv­en that the event was not spon­ta­neous, but rather long planned.

It was orga­nized by Sean Feucht, a right wing pas­tor and musi­cian who earned a rep­u­ta­tion dur­ing the pan­dem­ic for his bom­bas­tic con­certs held in protest of COVID-19 phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing safe­ty mea­sures. Feucht con­tin­ues to be a promi­nent voice in the white Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism move­ment, an ide­ol­o­gy stat­ing that Chris­tian­i­ty should be the foun­da­tion of America’s – if not the world’s laws.

For read­ers who are unfa­mil­iar with Matt Shea, he is a far-right, mil­i­tant white suprema­cist with a his­to­ry of polit­i­cal vio­lence, and who has long advo­cat­ed for a fas­cist theoc­ra­cy. Since enter­ing pol­i­tics, Shea has ped­dled con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and called for split­ting off East­ern Wash­ing­ton into a new state called Lib­er­ty.

Shea made nation­al head­lines in 2018 when it was revealed he was behind the dis­tri­b­u­tion of a man­i­festo titled “The Bib­li­cal Basis for War,” in which he out­lined the strat­e­gy for a “Holy Army,” con­demned repro­duc­tive rights and mar­riage equal­i­ty, and called for the killing of all males who do not yield to bib­li­cal law.

Shea gained fur­ther atten­tion in 2019 when an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed his involve­ment in the infa­mous armed takeover of Oregon’s Mal­heur Wildlife Refuge in 2016, led by Ammon Bundy. The inves­ti­ga­tion fur­ther detailed his direct involve­ment in two oth­er acts of domes­tic ter­ror­ism, lead­ing to his expul­sion from the House Repub­li­can cau­cus, despite his refusal to resign.

Shea chose not to run for reelec­tion to the Wash­ing­ton State House in 2020, and has since been act­ing as the pas­tor for the Covenant Chris­t­ian Church. Read­ers can read the Cas­ca­dia Advocate’s cov­er­age of Shea’s actions here and here.

Among the voic­es demand­ing account­abil­i­ty from Wood­ward was for­mer City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ben Stuckart, who ran against Wood­ward for May­or in 2019. The Spokesman Review quot­ed Stuckart as say­ing: “You don’t go to white Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist events, put on by Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists and not expect the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists to be there.”

Lisa Brown, Woodward’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger, also expressed skep­ti­cism towards Wood­ward’s claims, point­ing to her and Shea’s on-stage embrace.

It is also worth not­ing that in the abun­dance of prayers held that night, there were no words spo­ken for the first respon­ders or vic­tims suf­fer­ing outside.

So much for join­ing the com­mu­ni­ty in healing.

Wood­ward also said: “I am opposed to [Shea’s] polit­i­cal views as they are a threat to our democ­ra­cy, and I regret my pub­lic appear­ance with him. I was not aware that he would be at the event last night and it only became appar­ent as I was walk­ing on stage that he would be lead­ing the prayer. I should have made bet­ter efforts to learn who would be speak­ing at the event.”

Yet this was no last-minute proposition.

Shea con­firmed on his pod­cast, Patri­ot Radio, that Wood­ward accept­ed the invi­ta­tion to Let Us Wor­ship far, far in advance.

It would be impos­si­ble for a rea­son­able per­son to mis­take a Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist ral­ly for a prayer ses­sion for the vic­tims of a dis­as­ter that had not yet come to pass at the time it was sched­uled. What is more, giv­en Feucht’s mil­i­tant, extrem­ist far-right ide­ol­o­gy, it is dif­fi­cult to see how Wood­ward could not have antic­i­pat­ed, at min­i­mum, the tone and tenor of the ral­ly when she agreed to attend.

Even if Wood­ward were to have some­how missed Shea’s involve­ment, why didn’t she leave once she saw him present? Or at any point dur­ing the event, with its anti-LGBTQ+ remarks and its extreme right-wing rhetoric?

The obvi­ous answer: she did­n’t regret going to the event until after it was pub­li­cized that she’d been there and the crit­i­cism came rolling in.

Wood­ward was already fac­ing a tough gen­er­al elec­tion cam­paign to win a sec­ond term, as evi­denced by her loss to Brown in the August Top Two election.

Now her elec­toral prospects look even dimmer.

About the author

Caya is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor based out of Spokane, Washington, writing about Lilac City politics, the Evergreen State's 5th Congressional District, and related politics. She previously hosted the inaugural episodes of NPI's PNWcurrents podcast. She works at the Unemployment Law Project and is a graduate of Central Washington University, with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and sciences. Caya also has a minor from CWU in law and justice.

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