by Cara Gardner

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.

First in a Series : This is the first of four articles to appear over the coming weeks in this space that will introduce you to the candidates running for Washington's 5th District congressional seat. This week, it's Shaun Cross (R); next week, Cathy McMorris (R); Aug. 26, Larry Sheahan (R); and Sept. 2, Don Barbieri (D). The three Republicans will be whittled down to one after the primary on Sept. 14.

More in this issue:

Publication date: 08/12/04

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