Clyde Shavers, left, and Greg Gilday.

Clyde Shavers, left, and Greg Gilday.

In Whidbey swing district, Democratic challenger aims to repeat primary win

Incumbent Greg Gilday and Clyde Shavers are in a tight, heated race for state House to serve Whidbey, Camano and the Stanwood area.

STANWOOD — A political newcomer is challenging a one-term state representative in a closely watched race in the 10th Legislative District, where the candidates are lobbing criticism at each other over their positions on abortion rights, perceived partisanship and residency in the district.

The incumbent, Republican Greg Gilday, faces Democrat Clyde Shavers for the state House of Representatives Position 1 seat.

The 10th is considered a “swing” district, one of only a few places considered a toss-up for either Democrats or Republicans.

Gilday was first elected in 2020 by 891 votes, less than 1% of all ballots cast. Shavers won the August primary, taking about 52% of votes to Gilday’s 48%.

The 10th district covers Island County, north Snohomish County and south Skagit County. Currently, it’s represented by a Republican state senator, a Democratic representative and Gilday. It is one of two races that could realistically change the Democrats’ 57-41 majority in the House.

Gilday, 44, of Camano Island, is an attorney, realtor and owner of a title company.

Clyde Shavers, 31, of Oak Harbor, is a Navy veteran and 2022 graduate of Yale Law School. He is seeking his first political office.

Gilday has criticized Shavers for his connections to Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm with ties to the Democratic Party and many prominent Democratic politicians.

Shavers said he is an “incoming associate attorney” at Perkins Coie and has been hired to work in privacy and data security law. He was a summer associate at the firm while in law school and plans to take the bar exam next year. He added his employment will depend on the demands of serving as a state legislator, if elected.

Gilday also criticized Shavers for being a newcomer to the 10th district: “The biggest difference is I am local, he is not,” he said.

Shavers, who moved to Oak Harbor in early 2021, said he has dedicated his life to public service.

“The moment I left high school, I have committed to protecting our nation and communities,” he said. “I believe running for political office should not be a person’s first entry or foray into public service; it should be a continuation of how they’ve lived.”

Shavers grew up in Bellevue and attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He served in the Navy for eight years, including tours in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. While serving abroad, he said, he became concerned about political polarization in his home state.

“I saw communities being torn apart. I wanted to come back to find some way to serve,” he said.

Gilday said he is running for a second term because “there is still a lot to be done” in Olympia. He decried Democrat-backed police reform bills, as well as what he sees as excessive spending and taxes.

“We are not going to solve inflation in Olympia, but we can stop piling on with every new regulation and every new tax,” he said.

Gilday supports lowering the state’s sales tax. He criticized Democrats for failing to “adequately fund our rainy day fund,” despite a $15 billion budget surplus last session.

On public safety, he wants to “put the authority to decide whether to pursue a criminal in the hands of law enforcement,” referring to a bill that limited vehicle pursuits. He said he supports solutions that leave local police in charge.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all for the state,” he said.

Gilday said he wants to increase housing supply “at all levels.” He noted legislation he proposed to create real estate excise tax incentive zones, to boost housing. He added decisions about housing should be made locally, and “what’s right for Stanwood might not be what’s right for Everett or Seattle.”

Shavers said housing and health care affordability are priorities. The Democrat proposes expanding tax exemptions for nonprofits to build affordable housing and lowering prescription drug prices. He supports tax relief for low- and middle-income families.

Shavers said he grew up in a law enforcement family. His father was an undercover narcotics detective.

“I support providing more resources and more funding to law enforcement, but also in a more effective manner that helps them,” including more social workers and mental health experts, he said.

He added it’s important to “fix certain bills or legislation that may have swung too far in one direction.”

Shavers drew a contrast between his opponent and himself on abortion rights.

“I am the only pro-choice candidate running for this position,” he said, and that “government has no business in getting into private health care decisions.”

Gilday said he is pro-life. In an email, he said state voters have affirmed abortion rights and he “will oppose any abortion bill that does not send the question to the voters.” He sought to characterize Shavers’ views on abortion as “extreme,” echoing mailers sent to district voters from Evergreen Progress, a PAC funded by the Washington State Republican Party.

Gilday voted against legislation in 2021 that allows patients to sue hospitals if they are denied medical care for miscarriages or pregnancy complications. The bill came in response to hospitals with religious limits on abortions. Gilday called the bill unnecessary and “too broad and ambiguously worded.”

Gilday was involved in a dispute with the Stanwood City Council over a right-of-way agreement for property he co-owns. In October 2021, the council agreed to pay the owners of the Viking Village shopping center compensation for property to build a road through a parking lot, the Stanwood-Camano News reported. Gilday is a minority shareholder in the shopping center.

The city initially had the land appraised at $292,000 in 2018. The property owners later obtained an independent appraisal of $835,000, seeking an additional $543,000 from the city. Council members were not happy about the higher assessment and one said the city was being held “hostage.” The city settled out of court to avoid paying even more.

“It was eminent domain, so constitutionally they had to give us just compensation,” Gilday said. “We did cooperate with them from the beginning.”

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; jacqueline.allison@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jacq_allison.

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