Candidates seeking to represent Kittitas County in the state Legislature in Olympia emphasized their differences at an election forum Thursday sponsored by the Kittitas Valley League of Women Voters.

Mathew Manweller, a Republican and a Central Washington University political science professor, and Kaj Selmann, a Democrat and general contractor from Moses Lake, will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. 

The two candidates are vying for state House of Representatives Position 2 in the 13th Legislative District that takes in all of Kittitas and Lincoln counties, most of Grant County and a small section of Yakima County. Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, opted not to seek re-election to the position.


Manweller emphasized his ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively with Democratic Party lawmakers and “left leaning” professors at CWU who often hold views opposite of his own.

Manweller said he has experience in the state Legislature as the selected representative of the CWU Faculty Senate working in Olympia for a legislative term.

Experience matters in selecting a new state legislator, Manweller said.

In representing the Faculty Senate, Manweller said he cooperated with Democrat and Republican lawmakers, and forged ties with a Democrat lawmaker from Seattle to work on legislation affecting the state’s higher education system.

Before that he was selected as the president of the CWU Faculty Senate, which represents 400 CWU professors. Most of those professors are “left of me” politically, Manweller said, yet selected him as leader for a term.


Selmann said the path to civility in the state Legislature is down the middle in working out mutually beneficial compromises for the state’s citizens, and said he’s experienced in working out differences.

He stressed he knows how to accomplish goals cooperatively with different entities, giving the example of working with building officials from various public agencies in his business.

Selmann said some in the region are busy blaming government agencies, like the state Department of Ecology, for water-related concerns, but that doesn’t help find solutions to the region’s water supply problem.

“We are stuck in the blame game and make no forward progress,” Selmann said. 

The lead agencies involved in helping to find water solutions, including the DOE, “are real people, they are not faceless bureaucrats to be name called with disrespect,” Selmann said, adding that Manweller has been part of expressing that criticism.

The need is for a relationship of trust and respect, he said, not a continuing adversarial situation.

He added that he wants to find ways of increasing the amount of water that stays in storage for future needs, including agriculture, cities and fish habitat.

Manweller said Upper County real estate agents who lost their jobs when the DOE imposed well restrictions “are real people, too,” along with bankers who lost jobs and those who were not able to build their own homes because of the restrictions.

He said the DOE has been “kicking” the county with restrictions for four years and wants to shut down the Twin City Foods Inc. plant because of water concerns, a move that would cause the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Several state agencies need to be reined in by the Legislature, he said, including the DOE.

“We need oversight at the state level and I want to provide that as a state legislator,” Manweller said.

He said he supports the integrated water management plan for the Yakima River Basin, a plan that reflects an unprecedented coming together of opposite sides in water issues to agree on the same steps to solve water problems.

Parting shots

Manweller said he and Selmann have the same intentions of wanting the best for the state, but stressed he has the practical legislative experience, training, education and understanding of the law and economics to do the better job.

Selmann said Manweller is good at writing his opinions, but that he has the ability to turn ideas into solid reality for the good of the citizens.


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