With Matt Shea out, yearly push for Eastern Washington secession gets new co-sponsors
For years now, Washington state Rep. Matt Shea and Rep. Bob McCaslin have made a habit of beginning the legislative session by proposing a bill that would have Eastern Washington secede from its western half. With Shea now expelled from the Republican caucus in the state Legislature, McCaslin is continuing the largely ceremonial process of proposing the bill with new co-sponsors.
Rep. Shea faced allegations of domestic terrorism in 2019, not long after he caught heat for a biblical war manifesto that Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich described as “a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement.”
The domestic terror allegations levied by a state House investigation were the last straw for Shea’s fellow Republicans, who kicked him out of their caucus in December 2019.
With Shea out of the picture, joining McCaslin this time around are Republicans Rob Chase, Tom Dent, and Robert Sutherland. Similar to the many attempts from past years, the proposed bill in 2021 would have Eastern Washington secede to form a “separate and independent state” known as Liberty. That new hypothetical state would end at the “crest of the Cascade mountains and western borders of Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, and Klickitat counties.”
The idea of an Eastern Washington secession movement is nothing new. In fact, its roots date all the way back to the 1860s, with an effort to create “the Territory of Walla Walla.” At the time, Walla Walla was the largest city in the then-territory that would later become the state of Washington.
Once Washington achieved statehood in 1889, efforts to form an independent Eastern Washington state were frequent, beginning with numerous attempts to establish “the state of Lincoln.” That initially would have had Eastern Washington join with the northern Idaho panhandle and parts of northeastern Oregon.
Fast-forward to 2021, and that effort continues, albeit without the annexing of Washington’s eastern and southern neighbors. Nearly every session, Representatives Shea and McCaslin have put forth their “Liberty” legislation, and each time it’s failed to progress further than a first reading in front of the state House.
There’s no reason to believe it’ll move any further than it has in past years in 2021, given that Democrats control both the state Senate and House, as well as the governor’s office. Despite that, the bill was still read in front of the state House’s Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations, as it is most every session.