GOP questions Shavers seating on panel handling veterans issues

Republicans say it’s an affront to veterans because the Democratic lawmaker exaggerated about his service record.

A decision to seat Democratic Rep. Clyde Shavers on a committee handling veterans issues after he exaggerated about his military service in last fall’s campaign isn’t sitting well with Republicans.

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, told reporters Tuesday “it is very serious” but stopped short of urging his removal from the House Innovation, Community and Economic Development, and Veterans Committee.

Wilcox did say that when Democrats have raised ethical concerns about GOP members’ committee appointments in the past, “we addressed it. We don’t go putting them on the very committees (whose stakeholders) they offended.”

Shavers, of Oak Harbor, beat incumbent Republican Rep. Greg Gilday of Camano Island by 216 votes, a narrow victory confirmed in a recount.

The win earned Shavers a two-year term representing the 10th District encompassing all of Island County and portions of north Snohomish and south Skagit counties. In flipping the seat, he helped the Democrats increase their House majority.

Shavers, 32, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, served eight years in the Navy. He attended the Naval Nuclear Power School before transitioning into a public affairs role.

Early in the campaign he claimed to have been a nuclear submarine officer. But in a letter made public by the Gilday campaign in the final days of the campaign, Shavers’ father accused his son of lying, saying, “Clyde was never a submarine officer, not even for a day.”

A couple days later, Shavers posted an apology on his campaign website.

On Tuesday, as he did in the campaign, Shavers insisted he “never, ever said I served on a nuclear submarine.”

“As I’ve said before, my father’s letter was entirely political,” he said, reiterating his father supported former President Donald Trump and attended the Jan. 6 rally in the nation’s capital two years ago.

Shavers, one of four veterans on the committee, said he had not heard from other lawmakers or members of the public concerned about his position on the committee.

Thus far he has introduced two bills associated with veterans and the military. One would create a Purple Star award to recognize school districts that show a commitment to students and families connected to the nation’s military. The other would provide veterans free admission to state parks.

“I am using my experience and background to help veterans,” he said.

Democratic leaders aren’t budging on the appointment, which occurred before the session started last week.

“He’s a veteran. That has to be respected. The years he served cannot be denied or taken away,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “He brings a certain knowledge that cannot be ignored.”

House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle, told reporters Tuesday that Shavers “was insufficiently clear in how he described his service record at times on the campaign trail. I think he’s learned from that experience.”

With a large number of veterans in the 10th District, “it’s important that they have his experience and his advocacy for them and that community,” he said.

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley, a Naval Academy graduate and retired U.S. Navy Commander, will be watching closely. Given the circumstances of the election, Shavers seemed a poor choice for that panel, Wagoner said.

“I’m getting emails from veterans saying, ‘I don’t want him to represent me,’” he said.