ELLENSBURG - Matt Manweller, the Republican candidate to represent Washington's 13th district in the state House, said he sees government as the problem, not the solution.
"The problems of Washington state went from being abstract problems to very in-your-face problems," he said. "We have a horrible economic situation, and my friends and children are going to need jobs."
And while Manweller mulled the idea of running for some time, he said he had no interest in running against a fellow Republican.
So once state Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, decided to retire, Manweller began to seriously consider tossing his hat in the ring.
A professor at Central Washington University, Manweller faced some scrutiny earlier this week after records request were filed into unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct involving students made in 2006, causing university officials to open an investigation, according to The (Ellensburg) Daily Record.
Manweller filed a suit against the university, saying the school violated its own policies for opening the investigation with no new information since the allegations.
"It just is so obviously politically motivated for (CWU) to come up with this six years later ... then to look into this again the week before ballots go out," Manweller said. "It's not a great thing, but I don't think it's a deal-killer."
But Manweller also said his experience as an educator would be an asset in Olympia. He's familiar with higher education and it's inner workings, the cost of which is spiraling out of control, he said.
Bonuses the state awards to university presidents should be capped at 20 percent of their yearly salary.
"I have no problem giving bonuses if the people have worked hard and earned them," he said.
The state's K-12 system also has room for improvement, he said.
"I'm not interested in blaming teachers. That's been done, and that doesn't work," he said. "We need to empower principals. They need to be in charge of their schools."
He's in favor that educators be promoted based on quality of service, not the current system that's weighted toward length of service or quality attained.
Manweller, a member of the American Federation of Teachers union, called his and other unions, including the Washington Education Association and labor unions, "the barrier to reform."
"I'm deeply intimate with the issues," he said because of his involvement. "I know that we're the problem."
Other statewide topics he views as paramount include what he calls "the non-elected bureaucracy": those who run state departments who are government-appointed rather than chosen on by the electorate. These agency's rules and regulation combine to form the Washington Administrative Code, or WAC, and are not approved by the Legislature.
One such policy would have required farmers to notify every neighbor within a specific range a day before spraying occurred.
"That's just a glaring example where you might want to get Legislative approval before you start doing something like that," he said. So one of the first bills Manweller said he would introduce would require Legislative approval of WACs before their effects are felt.
He'd also work to suspend prevailing wage laws for construction of new public schools, which are adding anywhere from 30-35 percent to the costs of schools, he said. A bond measure for a school district has a better chance of passing at $120 million as opposed to $170 million for the same construction but inflated payments.
And like other candidates in the Basin county area, water is also near the top of his priorities.
"My community is based on a vibrant agricultural industry and, without water, my community could die," he said. "In Grant County, specifically, I like the plans coming out of the Columbia Basin Development League."
One of the league's key goals is to resolve depletion to the Odessa subarea aquifer. That aquifer is particularly important to this race as Legislative lines were redrawn earlier this year to include Lincoln County in the 13th district.
Like most running for state office, the budget is going to play a big role. He said the Legislature should have had plenty of time during the last session to pass the biennial budget, which trudged its way through several special Legislative sessions before finally being passed.
"If we didn't spend six weeks discussing gay marriage last year instead of focusing on what's really important, it would have been done," he said. "Let's focus on the work at hand instead of going off of six weeks of philosophical or ideological debates."
Manweller has gone on record against gay marriage, affirming traditional marriage: between one man and one woman. He also is opposed to abortion, he said.
His opponent, Moses Lake contractor Kaj Selmann, is in favor of those measures, which Manweller called some of the biggest differences between them.
"But the biggest difference for us is that I could be a legislator on day 1," he said. "I have the education, I have the experience, and I have the understanding of public policy that he simply lacks."
Manweller has been teaching at Central for 10 years. He and his wife have two children, ages 3 and 20 months, and in his free time he enjoys fly fishing, road trips and camping.