Shaun Cross has a hard time letting things go. When his wife of 28 years, Kathy, decided finally to pitch a pair of old shoes, Shaun brought them back into the house. His housekeeper of 17 years, Rae Holland, confirms that Cross "has been known to dumpster-dive" to retrieve tossed items. So you might imagine that an auction -- especially one that includes plenty of old Cross household belongings -- is not the best place for Shaun Cross to be, even if the auction is a fundraiser for his campaign to take George Nethercutt's place in Congress. On a hot Saturday at the end of July, Cross pulled in a little over $14,000 -- but not before trying to buy back some of his own stuff.
"I gave my garage over to Shaun, and I don't do that for just anyone," says Lynda Marty, whose Chattaroy home was transformed for the day.
Marty surveys the auction grounds from her porch. People mingle among the tables of kitschy 1950s utility products and games, American Indian-made copper pots and pans, old-fashioned wheelbarrows, vintage tubs, costumes, fly fishing equipment, tea sets and delicate glass candy dishes. There are a lot of auction-goers in overalls, good ol' boys ready to make treasures out of someone's junk. Cross, the quintessential Saturday Dad, in Khakis and a polo shirt, shows up with family in tow and decides to skip over any long speeches; he remains casual and friendly with the crowd, mostly letting them come to him with questions.
"I was born and raised in a Democratic family," Marty says, nodding in Cross's direction. "We joke that my grandmother would turn over in her grave if she knew I was working for this campaign. But I vote for the person, not the party. I've worked for Shaun for five years with the law firm [Paine Hamblen], and when he decided to do this, I decided to go with him, because he's the right guy."
Marty says even though she doesn't agree with Cross on all the issues, such as gay marriage (which she is for and he's against) or the Patriot Act (which she's against and he's mostly for), she relates to him on a personal level. "The garden-variety Democrat is not a rich person, and they're not going to relate to Barbieri [the Democratic candidate] because he's a zillionaire; he can buy the position. I keep telling Shaun, you've got to get in front of people so they can see how genuine you are."
Perhaps that's what the Chattaroy auction is all about -- mingling with the "folks" outside the downtown Spokane business core. As it is, Cross may not be a "zillionaire," but as the managing partner of the biggest law firm in Spokane, president-elect of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and former member of the board of directors for the Spokane Public Facilities District, Cross isn't doing too shabby.
Cross comes from a family of lawyers (including his father and brother), but he didn't start off on that path. His fascination with outer space led him to major in physics at WSU. After graduation, he moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., where he met his wife Kathy and worked as an engineer.
"I was working in a lab with no windows," he recalls. "I'm a people person and love to solve problems with people, not machines." Eventually, Cross's path returned to the Inland Northwest He graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law as one of the top four students out of 175 in his class.
Cross's faith has a local angle as well. He was raised in the Episcopal church, but says he was never really religious growing up. "As a kid, I went through the motions," he explains. "At college, my religion was science. I was a materialist. And I was born again at 25."
Cross's mother died of Parkinson's disease when he was 25 years old. He says he accepted Jesus into his heart a month before she passed. "She was very happy to see that," he says. Now Cross belongs to Christ the Redeemer, a church based on evangelical gospel teachings of which he is a founding member. Though Cross makes it clear he doesn't think politicians should preach their religious beliefs to voters, his spirituality does influence his voting record. For instance, Cross is unequivocally pro-life, anti-stem cell research and anti-euthanasia. He says he won't budge on those issues, no matter what his constituents want. And Cross stands with the conservative line on all issues, including Republican ideals about the importance of small government and fewer taxes.
"There's a great quote from Gladstone, an old prime minister of England," Cross says. "It goes, 'If you're not liberal when you're young, you have no heart, and if you're not conservative when you're old, you've got not brain.' I was pretty liberal when I was young and over the years I've become more conservative."
Raising four children -- Kelly, Trevor, Emily and Natalie -- has probably had something to do with that. Kelly, his oldest, attends UW and is working on her dad's campaign as volunteer coordinator to get some experience -- which, in itself, brings up the topic of her father's lack of political experience. Cross, naturally, argues that not having had the experience of a full-time political job is one of his strengths as a congressional candidate because he is more in touch with what people want. His opponents, just as naturally, say his lack of political experience will hurt him. Like any good lawyer, Cross loves to debate. A conversation with him is kind of like a chess game -- it's a challenge to see who's one move ahead. He may be a newcomer, but he seems ready to play the game.
At the yard auction, Cross is deep in discussion when something catches his attention. It's an old projection kit, just being put on the auction block. "My wife put this in," he says, a mischievous smile spreading across his face, "and I don't want it to go."
Immediately he's off the porch and bidding -- $100, $150. His family sees him, but they're too late. "Dad," calls Kelly, "what are you doing? No!" She's laughing, though, looking back at her mother Kathy, who's shaking her head in amusement. This, after all, is Shaun Cross, the man who can't let anything go. The bidding war continues -- $300, $350. His family's pleas are drowned out, "Well, Mom, I guess you're not getting those granite countertops," Kelly jokes.
Now the bidding is down to just Cross and another man -- an avid financial supporter of the campaign. Cross's benefactor bellows, "$550," and the sale is made. Cross may have lost his projector set, but another chunk of cash just flowed into his campaign. "He wasn't trying to up the total," says one onlooker. "He really wanted that darn thing back."
It seems clear that when Shaun Cross really wants something, he's not going to let go of it easily.
Cross On The Issues:
Cross has been endorsed by a variety of leaders in Eastern Washington's health care sector, including Skip Davis (CEO of Sacred Heart) and Dr. Kevin Sweeny (CEO of Rockwood Clinic), particularly because of his stance on tort reform. Despite being a lawyer, Cross says there are too many frivolous lawsuits, forcing doctors to pay such high medical malpractice premiums that many are simply leaving the state. "We have [in Washington] some of the highest medical malpractice premiums in the nation," he remarks.
Jobs are the "it" issue for this election, and Cross promises to deliver. He says he'll focus on boosting the local health care industry, as well as agriculture, education, energy and tourism. He opposes government involvement that would prevent companies from sending jobs overseas, but says he'd support incentives, like tax breaks for companies that keep jobs in America.
"My views are pro-life, [and that] applies to cloning, euthanasia, all end-of-life issues, abortion and stem-cell research," Cross says. "Though stem cell research is complicated. I don't agree with creating a life only to end it, but [taking cells] from the umbilical cord I can understand."
"I approve of our actions, even if we can't prove [there are] weapons of mass destruction," says Cross. "I think some people have already forgotten 9/11." Along with the Bush administration, Cross continues to connect Iraq with 9/11, despite the bipartisan 9/11 Commission's repeated statements that there is no proof of connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda. When asked if Iraq was the next Vietnam, Cross says no. "The parallels are that we have a divided country, but some things have happened since Vietnam. The Vietcong were not going to come to Manhattan. This is the new Cold War. It's going to be bloody, ugly and messy, and it's going to go on for decades. Get used to it."
THE PATRIOT ACT
Cross, like his Republican peers, is ambivalent about the Patriot Act. "We have unprecedented need for security measures," Cross explains. "Now, balancing that, we have civil rights and liberties, and those are the very things this country is founded on." Cross disagrees with the provision in the Patriot Act that gives the government power to arrest and detain people without charging them with a crime. "That causes concern," he says. "In fact, it's wrong." Still, says Cross, the Patriot Act is necessary for many reasons, and he approves of the sunset clause, which will require Congress to keep reviewing it: "We're in a situation where the potential for catastrophic events [is high]. We have to be proactive."
Cross was a founding member of his church, Christ the Redeemer. Though devout, Cross says when he's got his political hat on, he won't wear his religion on his sleeve. "We need real humility," Cross says, regarding Christians in politics. "We don't need to hide our world view, but we don't need to beat people over the head with it. Watching Christians in politics, I'm often embarrassed -- they're not being good witnesses. The stereotypes fit, and we're our own worst enemy. But [Christianity] has another side, that winsome and kind side."
Cross would like to see amendments to the Endangered Species Act and says that environmental regulations are bankrupting key industries and businesses in the Inland Northwest. "The truth is, the Nixon administration had no idea [the Endangered Species Act] would be applied the way it is today," Cross says. "We've become so partisan that if you say there's a problem with the Endangered Species Act, then you're 'anti-environmental.'"
Cross opposes same-sex marriage. "It's interesting to see liberals and Democrats talking about states' rights," he says, regarding the argument that the federal government should not have the power to define marriage for states. "I think what people do in their private lives they should be allowed to do. I'm not in favor of criminalizing homosexuality. I'm not into gay-bashing or fanaticism. But marriage is defined as one man and one woman. If we make this change [in redefining marriage], we're getting into an area [that affects] the fundamental building blocks of society -- every society. It's how we create the next generation."
THE FEDERAL DEFICIT
Cross, unlike some Republicans, has been critical of the federal deficit. "I think the federal deficit is a problem. It was a problem in the '90s when it ran over $500 billion, and it's a problem today. I'm concerned. I think understandably because there's a war, we have a deficit. We've had deficits every time we've been at war. But I think we need to be more careful with our discretionary spending."
But Cross doesn't suggest curbing the spending on Iraq or Afghanistan; instead, he says the government should take a second look at how much it's spending on social services, particularly on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which is well over $400 billion. "As Republicans espouse smaller government, I think we've suffered from a case of amnesia," Cross says, referring to the criticism Republicans made when the federal deficit hit $500 billion in the '90s.