OAK HARBOR — The father of a candidate running for a state House seat has accused his son of lying about his military service and misrepresenting other parts of his background.
Brett Shavers, father of Clyde Shavers, sent a scathing three-page letter to his son’s opponent, asserting his son falsely claimed in campaign materials he served as a nuclear submarine officer in the Navy for eight years.
“Clyde was never a submarine officer, not even for a day,” Brett Shavers wrote.
He also accuses his son, a 32-year-old Democrat from Oak Harbor, of misrepresenting his family’s background and other aspects of his resume.
The Daily Herald spoke with Brett Shavers by phone on Monday and Tuesday. The newspaper verified his identity by matching both his and his son’s birth dates with voter registration records.
Clyde Shavers disputes his father’s claims.
“His political letter is inaccurate and, personally, very painful to me as his son,” Shavers wrote in an email. “To be clear, this letter is all about politics.”
The candidate declined a phone interview request.
The accusations come as Shavers duels Republican opponent Greg Gilday in a close and expensive battle in one of the state’s few swing districts. Two races in the 10th Legislative District have garnered more than $2 million in contributions and spending.
In his letter, Brett Shavers continues he and his wife, who both live in Kirkland, were moved to write the letter to “correct the record factually and personally as a matter of integrity” for the family. Clyde Shavers’ mother declined to be named or agree to an interview.
“Clyde’s use of his family’s history and values as a foundation for his credibility and values has gone farther than I can accept,” he wrote in the letter.
“I have told him not to do embellishments and exaggerations and it continued and continued, it just reached a point where it’s affecting everyone’s integrity and honesty,” Brett Shavers said by phone.
He said a Facebook post on his son’s campaign page last week was “the final straw.” In the post, Clyde Shavers fired back at Gilday for attacking “my military service and family.”
Brett Shavers said their son’s portrayal of the family as a victim of Gilday’s campaign pushed them over the edge.
“We’ve been telling him don’t drag us into that,” the father said by phone.
Brett Shavers emailed the letter on Sunday to Gilday’s campaign, which forwarded the letter to media outlets including The Daily Herald.
Brett Shavers told the Herald his son passed only one of three courses required to become a nuclear submarine officer. He said his son completed the first course, called the Naval Nuclear Power School, a 24-week program in Charleston, South Carolina. He later transitioned into a public affairs role.
Clyde Shavers’ website previously stated “for more than 8 years, he served as a nuclear submarine officer and public affairs officer with tours in the Middle East and Southeast Asia,” according to an internet archive of the website from Feb. 11.
A mailer paid for by Shavers’ campaign sent to voters before the Aug. 2 primary repeats the statement. More recent mailers omit the statement.
The statement has since been scrubbed from the website. Today, the website says “he was commissioned into the nuclear submarine community and later transitioned as a public affairs officer in 2015.”
In an Aug. 23 interview with the Herald Editorial Board, Shavers said he was a nuclear submarine officer “for a couple of years.”
But in an email on Tuesday, the candidate said “I have never said that I deployed on a submarine, but only that I was commissioned as a nuclear submarine officer.”
He said he graduated from Nuclear Power School in 2014. After the second course, called Nuclear Power Training Unit Prototype, Shavers said he decided to pursue other interests in the Navy. He did not say whether he graduated from the second program. He then served six years in the Navy as a public affairs officer.
Brett Shavers said he advised his son before he announced his candidacy to list the training he completed and be truthful about his service. The elder Shavers, who served in the Marine Corps for four years, said claiming to have been a submarine officer is akin to claiming to have been a fighter pilot or Navy SEAL.
“You’re taking from someone who has gone through a lot more,” he said.
Brett Shavers denied the letter was politically motivated. He declined to share his personal political beliefs.
“This letter was not ‘do or don’t vote for him,’” he said. “It was mostly for us, being dragged into untruths.”
Clyde Shavers pointed to his father’s plans to travel to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election, as evidence the letter was politically motivated. He provided a screenshot of a text exchange referencing travel plans.
Brett Shavers confirmed he and his wife went to D.C. to listen to the former president and marched to the Capitol. He said they did not participate in breaking into the Capitol.
Clyde Shavers has said he decided to run for office because of frustrations over political divisiveness and polarization.
“This is the kind of politics that’s tearing apart families and communities, and my campaign is about healing and moving forward,” he said of his father’s letter.
In the letter, Brett Shavers goes on to accuse his son as having “only disdain for the military,” including “revulsion to wear the uniform,” while emphasizing his veteran status in his campaign.
Clyde Shavers disputed that.
”I was honored to be accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy and serve my country,” Shavers said by email. “I stayed in the military beyond my service requirement because of dedication to country and the brothers and sisters who served alongside me.”
The father first emailed the Gilday campaign on Thursday, according to receipts forwarded to the Herald.
Brett Shavers said he then spoke on the phone with Gilday’s campaign manager, Alex Hays. He said he did not feel pushed to write the letter and the idea of a letter came up in their conversation.
“Shavers has misstated not only his own record, but made false statements about Greg’s legislative record,” Hays said in an emailed statement. “His father saw these attacks and offered to set the record straight.”
Questions about Clyde Shavers’ statements about his law credentials have also been raised.
Shavers stated he is an attorney with Perkins Coie, a Seattle law firm, when he filed his personal financial disclosure form in January with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Yet, he has not passed the bar exam and plans to take the exam next year, Shavers told the Herald in an Oct. 17 email.
In an email on Tuesday, Shavers said he never stated he is a current practicing attorney. He said in filling out his F-1 form, he was unable to select “lawyer” as an option to distinguish he had completed law school but not yet taken the bar exam. The PDC form gives an option to select “attorney/lawyer” but not one or the other.
On his campaign website, Shavers writes he is an “environmental law advocate.” He graduated from Yale Law School in May 2022 and studied environmental law with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In an interview on Oct. 12, Shavers said he has been hired to work at Perkins Coie as an associate attorney in privacy and data security law. He said he plans to start work later this year, depending on the demands of serving as a state legislator.
While in law school, he said he worked at Perkins Coie as a summer associate, a program for law students.
“I fully intend to take the bar exam next year and serve as an attorney,” he said.
According to a PDC spokesperson, candidates have the option to write “intern” or “law clerk” or “other” and write whatever they want on their F-1 form.
Brett Shavers’ letter also brings up questions about his son’s lack of ties to Whidbey Island and newcomer status in the 10th District. Gilday has repeatedly raised the same objections about his opponent.
“I moved to Oak Harbor in April 2021 to live in a community of veterans back home in Washington after returning from serving in the Middle East and continuing my legal education,” Clyde Shavers said.