Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Cle Elum, said Monday that he will continue to serve the remainder of his term but will resign if re-elected this November. Manweller is still urging voters to elect him, as state law would allow the seat to be filled by another Republican.
“The last year has been incredibly difficult for my family,” Manweller said in a text sent to media and later posted to Facebook. “Moving forward, I am primarily focused on creating a safe and healthy environment for my family, in particular, my wife and two children.
This announcement comes after state House Republican Leadership called on Manweller Friday to resign from his position in the legislature amid new allegations of statutory rape detailed in a report by the Northwest News Network.
In an interview with the Northwest News Network's Austin Jenkins, a former high school student of Manweller's claimed that she had begun a sexual relationship with Manweller when she was 17 and he was ten years her senior, shortly after she had graduated from her Idaho high school. The story, corroborated by Manweller's ex-wife, was apparently the last straw for House Republican leadership, which had previously indicated only voters could remove the lawmaker.
“I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the story shared in the well-documented piece from the NW News Network,” said House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, in a statement Friday. “What Matt did was wrong. Our Leadership team has asked Matt to resign from his position as state representative.”
In an interview Monday, Wilcox said that Manweller's decision to resign if re-elected was satisfactory, and that Manweller was making the best decision for the district he serves and for his family.
“This wasn't just about politics; this was about doing what's right and helping Matt, moving forward, do what's best his family,” Wilcox said Monday.
This is only the latest in a string of losses for Manweller, both in politics and in academia. Central Washington University fired Manweller from a tenured teaching position after an independent investigation found evidence of impropriety, including accusations from multiple students that Manweller had offered to trade sex for grades.
After allegations from CWU students and the legislative staffer became public, Manweller was stripped of his role as the top Republican member on the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee and resigned from a House Republican leadership position in December after then-House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen called on Manweller to step down.
Manweller has already earned a spot in the general election and thus could not withdraw his name from the ballot.
“My name will appear on those ballots regardless of what I decide to do with respect to my campaign and service to the district,” Manweller said. “I also believe it is important that the 68 percent of voters who identify as Republicans have someone to vote for.”
If Manweller were to win re-election and then resign, the state Republican Party would select three candidates to fill the seat, according to election officials. The candidates would then be vetted by county commissions within the district until one is selected to serve for the remainder of Manweller's term.