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Q&A: Matthew Menza, candidate for senator Colorado’s Senate District 17

The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length.
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Matthew Menza, Republican candidate for Colorado Senate District 17. (Courtesy photo)

The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length. The Longmont Leader does not endorse any candidate and is providing as much information as we can to help voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. If you have questions please contact info@longmontleader.com.

Candidate bio

Matthew Menza was born at Boulder Community Hospital grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated from Palmer High School. Matthew earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Colorado Boulder with an ROTC scholarship. After graduation, Matthew was commissioned into the U.S. Navy and began flight training in Pensacola, Florida.

After flight training, Matt received orders to Whidbey Island, Washington, where he served on three different naval aircraft carriers completing 397 carrier landings during three sea deployments supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was assigned to fly the EA-6B “Prowler” aircraft. He also served one land deployment for 11 months in Afghanistan in support of contingency operations.

Matt attended military test pilot school and became a Navy test pilot, flying all three variants of the FA-18 “Super Hornet” in Ridgecrest, California. He received his master’s degree in systems engineering from the Navy Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. Matthew has received the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, GWOT Service Medal, USAMM NATO ISAF Medal, and the Pistol and Marksmanship Medal.

In 2017, Matt retired from the Navy after 20 years and became a test pilot for Boeing on the 737 aircraft in Seattle, Washington. His family decided to move to Longmont to plant roots and start a small aviation business to develop and deploy software to enhance aviation safety. Matthew is a professional pilot, engineer, an active general aviation pilot, and an aircraft owner. Matthew has been married to Tara for 14 years, and they have six children, five of whom are still home with them.

What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?

I served as a naval officer for 20 years.  I understand service is not about me or my party, it’s about the people you serve.  I believe character, integrity and honesty are critical traits to have as an elected official.  My service experience alone makes me more qualified than a majority of the elected officials in Colorado.

If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?

First priority will be to address the suicide epidemic in Colorado.  We need mental and behavioral health funding as a priority immediately.  From parity enforcement to increased mental health access, this is first and foremost on the agenda.  Next is ensuring our citizens have jobs and this requires ensuring our businesses are reopened fully after almost a year of lockdowns and restrictive mandates.   

What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?

We need thorough data on the communities that are lacking resources and ensure outreach programs catered to different communities are accessible.  This should enable citizens to have a variety of available opportunities.

What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?

As the “unconventional Republican” I have made it clear that our local and state priorities are the center of attention.  National theatrics are not pertinent to our local communities and distract constituents from voting for the right person for the job.   

Are you satisfied with Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can more be done at the local level? The federal level?

Initially, the COVID-19 response was in line with national directives as there were many unknown variables about how the virus would affect the overall population.  As articulated by the CDC, surgeon general and president of the United States, the lockdowns and strict mandates were designed to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.  It was never to stop the virus. Although any death is unfortunate, Colorado was spared the tragic heavy losses experienced in other states like New York and New Jersey for example.  Now, fall 2020, in the month of October, we know the risks and know who the vulnerable members of our community are.  Additionally, Colorado has very few COVID-19 issues, even with small spikes in isolated areas.  We know what it takes to live with this virus and this can be done successfully until a vaccine can be created.  But Colorado still operates under a state of emergency for no reasonable explanation.  Suicide and mental illness are now much more of a risk than COVID-19.  But we are still under strict mandates.  With over 200 emergency executive orders and no end in sight, very few people agree with how Colorado is currently handling COVID-19.  Our businesses need more autonomy to operate as they see fit, children need to be in school and we need to replace panic and fear with the known reality and new science now out by the CDC, which indicates that the virus is extremely survivable and targets a very small population of at-risk individuals.  As Colorado rises to the top in the country for suicides, perhaps it’s time to rethink the balance between lockdowns, restrictions and the other second-order affects, such as death by suicide.  Opening up society will help alleviate the anxiety and fear.

Colorado is facing a projected budget shortfall of more than $6 billion in the next three years because of the reduction in tax revenue caused by the pandemic. How should the state and local government set budget priorities? How deeply should cuts be made? What should your office be doing, or is doing, to prepare?

Colorado needs to open up all businesses immediately, incentivize new business growth, provide business protections for struggling businesses due to the mandated restrictions and then make it clear to the people of Colorado that for several years, we will do with less as we cut budgets, trim expensive overhead and bloated governance. As we trim budgets and reprioritize where our funding should go, we simultaneously need to create a business-friendly environment as the catalyst for bringing back robust tax revenues.

A question on this year’s ballot is seeking to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. Are you in support of the measure?  Why or why not?

The Gallagher Amendment is the lesser of two evils.  It has its problems, but the alternative will result in potentially massive increases in residential property taxes while providing little to no benefit to small businesses.  This is a great way to make housing less affordable.  Lastly, in the middle of a recession is no time to repeal Gallagher with the high likelihood it will increase taxes on all Coloradoans.  Until we get a better solution, vote no.

Another initiative on the ballot seeks to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program. Do you support this measure? If it fails, should state or local lawmakers pursue similar measures?

Businesses simply can not afford this type of expensive mandate.  The state is looking at massive budget shortfalls due to the COVID lockdowns and this is a good way to put a knife in the back of many struggling businesses.  We need to take the emotion out of this particular concept and realize that this bill would put a huge burden on businesses that can hardly keep afloat now.  Fortunately, many larger companies already provide this benefit without being forced to do so at the sword of the government.  If this is important to the constituents, I recommend looking at employment with one of these companies. But to force businesses to pay for something they can’t necessarily afford will help accelerate the budget shortfalls as businesses fail or simply leave the state.

What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Coloradans who may be voting for the first time?

Politics has become divisive.  There is little unity or civil discourse between the different parties.  We need to get back to the basics of civil discourse and manners and allow people to have viewpoints different from others.  We need to take the time to get informed, versus reading one sentence from a meme and calling that the news of the day.  We need to get back to a pragmatic way of life,  one where people start looking at individuals and not labels, slogans or projecting disdain of national political leaders on hard-working local leadership.  We need to encourage freedom of speech at all levels, but civilly.  We need to enforce basic manners and encourage each other to start listening and learning, versus calling people names.  Once we can get back to the basics, we can start electing better candidates that have our best interest at heart versus officials that only care about power and party narratives. 

Who is your hero, and why?

Theodore Roosevelt for his famous long quote/passage, "The Man in the Arena." It is why I’m running to be a state senator.