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Originally published January 15, 2014 at 5:31 PM | Page modified January 16, 2014 at 5:48 AM

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Democrats find candidate to take on GOP state senator

Setting up what could prove a key battle for control of the state Legislature, Democrats have found a challenger for state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond. Matt Isenhower, a Navy veteran and senior product manager at Amazon, announced Wednesday he’s running against Hill in the 45th Legislative Distr


Seattle Times political reporter

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Setting up what could prove a key battle for control of the Legislature, Democrats have found a challenger for state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.

Matt Isenhower, a Navy veteran and senior product manager at Amazon, announced Wednesday he’s running against Hill in the 45th Legislative District.

Isenhower, 33, said Hill has not lived up to his image as a moderate in Olympia.

“My opponent said he was going to go to Olympia to make change, and we have seen change for the worse since he has gone down there. Like many of my neighbors, I am tired of these broken promises and the bickering,” he said.

On his website, Isenhower attacks Hill as part of “an extremist majority” in the state Senate that blocked votes on bills including measures that would protect women’s reproductive-health rights.

Hill, 51, is the chief budget writer for Senate Republicans and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress. Defeating him would be a coup for Democrats and would continue a trend of some Eastside suburbs turning away from the GOP.

The 45th Legislative District stretches across Northeast King County, including Woodinville, Duvall, Carnation and parts of Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish, where he grew up. It is swing-voter territory.

While Hill is a Republican, both state representatives from the district, Roger Goodman and Larry Springer, are Democrats.

“I look forward to a vigorous debate on the future of the state and my work to change the way things are done in Olympia,” Hill said in an email. “Throughout my term I’ve been very pleased with the broad, bipartisan support I’ve received from across the district.”

Republicans say Hill’s accomplishments will be viewed favorably by moderate voters.

Keith Schipper, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, pointed to last year’s state budget, which added $1 billion to public schools and halted tuition increases at state colleges and universities for the first time since 1986, while rejecting Democratic calls to extend some temporary taxes.

“Instead of embracing Senator Hill’s bipartisan and solutions-focused approach, Mr. Isenhower is running on a platform of hyperpartisanship to return the same failed one-party control of state government that left us with massive deficits, underfunded schools and record unemployment,” Schipper said.

After serving six years in the Navy and obtaining an MBA from Harvard, Isenhower ran operations for 56 Burger King stores in the Tampa, Fla., area. He returned to Redmond in 2012.

In an interview, Isenhower spoke about the need to find a stable school-funding source and passage of a gas-tax package to fix roads. But he shied away from taking a position on another big cause among Democrats: the push for a higher minimum wage.

“I’m just not ready to talk about it now,” he said.

This is one of several contests that will determine control of the Senate, which is currently led by a GOP-dominated coalition that includes two Democrats. Democrats already control the governor’s office and state House.

Jaxon Ravens, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said Democrats also are targeting Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, the Medina Democrat who joined Republicans to take control of the Senate last year

Other Democratic targets include: Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place; Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale; Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane; and Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.

Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to go after a couple potentially vulnerable Democratic state senators, including Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Tracy Eide, D-Federal Way.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com



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