Meet the Candidate: Matt Isenhower

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Karen Tennyson, Action Fund Board Member

Matt Isenhower is a former naval officer, a Harvard MBA, a devoted family man, and is running for the State Senate in the 45th District. He's running because the legislature went too far in playing “DC style politics” during the 2013 session when they brought the state to within 12 hours of a shutdown. He adds that the budget they passed wasn't sustainable and doesn’t fund basic education to the level mandated by the state Supreme Court McCleary decision. This brinksmanship, along with how they came up with the $1 billion McCleary funding made him declare “enough is enough” and enter the race.

His military experience during conflict in Somalia brought significant leadership opportunities, along with his management role at Amazon. According to him, “The first sign of leadership will be how we fund McCleary. The second is finding dedicated revenue to fulfill our obligation to human services.”

He sees our history of cutting funds for those most vulnerable showing up in the present increasing number of homeless children in our state. “We did not plan for the future and now we have to deal with the crisis . . . It’s a broader discussion around McCleary, and it’s not just education. It’s a children’s issue.”

Matt learned a lot about the hardships people experience that can land them in poverty or on the streets from his time in the Navy. He was inspired by his conversations with fellow sailors who came from challenging backgrounds and were using the military as a way to begin life anew. Many had it tough because military pay is often not enough to support their families, forcing them to rely on food stamps. This is why affordable housing is such a vital issue for Matt, as many veterans who were raised here are returning and want to live here. “Housing is one of the biggest issues that we see with our veterans because affordable housing is just not available.”

Matt also prioritized providing a safety net for people experiencing homelessness. That’s why he wants to make document recording fees that fund efforts to end homelessness permanent. As Matt sees it, revenue is clearly the issue, not spending. And Matt has several revenue ideas including a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions and ending tax breaks. He is also supportive of Rep. Ross Hunter’s levy swap proposal.

Matt’s drive is in part inspired by his cousin Jim, an army colonel and Matt’s role model. Both are Eagle Scouts, and both graduated from military academies, Jim from West Point and Matt from Annapolis. According to Matt, it makes the Army/Navy football games “a lot more fun.“ Matt’s military background and lifetime of volunteerism has also led Matt to serve on the King County Veterans Board and the Lake Washington Foundation Board.

Matt’s wife April has been incredibly supportive of his bid for the Senate, allowing him to focus full time on this vital race. They both even agreed to forgo their 10-year anniversary celebration, so he could continue door belling. After the election, Matt, April, and their two kids plan to take some time for themselves. The current plan is for somewhere sunny!

When asked how his game plan would change if he wins, but the majority of the Senate continues to be resistant to revenue solutions? His immediate response, “I’m ready for a very, very long session.”