Matthee spreads message to Boundary County

By Clarice M. McKenney

Clarice McKenney

Two Boundary County voters of different party persuasions recently met Karen Matthee on their doorsteps. Both told this reporter that they were impressed enough to vote for her in November.

“Face time with the voters of Boundary County, like going door to door, is really important, especially to reach voters in the middle looking for guidance for November’s vote,” Idaho District 1A Legislative Candidate Matthee explained while in Bonners Ferry Tuesday.

Explaining why she entered the race, Matthee said, “I felt a need in this part of Idaho because no one was stepping up at the legislative level to correct issues I felt strongly about and still do,” Matthee said.

She supports specific legislative remedies to 1) lower the cost of living, 2) fully fund public schools and 3) provide better health care for everyone, not just women and children but men and those with disabilities and mental illnesses.

One of the issues she feels strongest about came into her view when the couple first moved to Bonner County. “It was difficult to find housing, so we rented for a while.”

Matthee and her partner saw firsthand what many of us in Boundary County have been experiencing of late: the lack of affordable housing and the extremely high cost of homes and lots that are available.

To bring down the cost of living, she offers a variety of solutions, including scrapping the grocery tax, raising the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, moving to a progressive state and local income tax system, accepting federal childcare grants (rather than turning them away), and bringing back the index to homeowners exemption. It was based on the sales price of homes and when it was removed in 2016, non-homeowner and commercial properties got significant property tax reductions while homeowners saw increases. She’d also like the state to start investing in the Idaho Housing Trust Fund created in 1992 by the Legislature to pay for the creation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of affordable homes.

She said one proposed solution she likes is a win-win for both property owners and our public schools. A bill that was introduced to late in the last session to go forward would create a new fund in the state treasury to support public school facilities, along with a needs-based funding process that could do away with local school bonds.

“Last year the Office of Public Instruction identified $5.2 billion in sales tax exemptions that are never reviewed and never expire – some have been in place since the sixties,” Matthee said. “If just 10 percent of those exemptions were ruled obsolete, it would free up half a billion every year to put toward school facilities. Many of those exemption stem from a time when Idaho was a small, growing state. But now it’s the fastest-growing state in the nation. We could use those funds to help our schools and relieve property taxpayers of the burden to fund them.”

Matthee and her partner eventually bought the home of Dr. Amelia Huntsberger, an Obstetrician Gynecologist in Sandpoint who was with Sandpoint Women’s Health, and her husband, who was Bonner General’s Emergency Room doctor, Vince Huntsberger.

“After we bought their home, Amelia and Vince moved to Eugene, Oregon because Bonner General Health closed its labor and delivery unit due to financial issues and the political climate created by the Legislature’s ban on abortions that made no provision for the health or life of the mother,” Matthee said. “One of our neighbors, another OB/GYN, left soon afterward/ Both were among the more than 22% of Idaho’s OB/GYN practitioners who have left the state.”

Her concern about these issues goes back to her 20 years of experience in journalism. Matthee had covered legal and social problems in the Pacific Northwest, including the burning down of clinics offering abortions in Washington State. She became the editor of a parenting magazine and cofounded an issues-driven magazine for women that sparked an increase in research dollars gong to diseases that primarily affect women in Washington State.

As a journalist Matthee could not participate in politics. So she has been making up for time lost, getting involved in supporting Bonner County schools, working for women’s health issues, something she knows about personally, and learning how she can help resolve concerns she hears about in the district if she is elected in November.

“I’m an adoptive mom who underwent years of fertility treatments that included three cycles of invitro fertilization,” she explained. “Happily, we got our family in the end and I would not have it any other way.” Her son, Niko, now is 27 years old.

“And now Project 2025 would criminalize invitro fertilization,” she said. “I’m sharing this information so that people know what’s at stake. It’s the only way for some families to have children.” Project 2025, overseen by the conservative Heritage Foundation, is an initiative that includes a blueprint for the next Republican president to usher in a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch.

“Republicans, in general, had two years to fix the total abortion ban. During that same two years, the only representative calling for an exception to the ban to protect the health of the mother in a medical emergency was our Democrat from Boise, Rep. Ilana Rubel. Her bill never got to a vote and was largely ignored by the Idaho GOP.

“In the wake of two years of inaction in the legislature, a grass-roots group from Boise began exploring a ballot initiative to overturn Idaho’s abortion total ban. “Ultimately,” she said, “that’s the right thing to do. The Republican-run legislature has not listened to its constituents, the majority of whom polls show, do not support this total ban.”

“What I want is for the fate of the abortion ban to be back in the hands of voters. In the meantime, if I’m elected, I will support an exception for the health of the mother in a medical emergency.

Another of her main objectives if she is elected in November is to work toward fully funding our public schools. Governor Little’s school facilities bill, while a step in the right direction, doesn’t go far enough.

“It doesn’t really benefit rural schools. The cost of a new elementary school like the one needed in Boundary County is about $30 million, so the $5.2 million that Boundary County will get does not begin to address the problem. “The Idaho State Supreme Court ruled that it’s the state’s constitutional obligation to adequately fund public schools. That’s why I support a permanent fund in the state treasury to be allocated as need.”

Matthee is willing to work hard to earn her votes.

She was recently in Boundary County going door to door and took a dirt road to a trailer, where the resident appeared formidable and grumpy at first. She told him why she was there and asked, “What’s keeping you up at night; what do you want changed at the state level?”

“He said, ‘I can’t believe those (expletive) in Boise are telling women what they can and can’t do for their bodies.” Matthee said the gentleman is an example of many she encounters who would not have attended a meet & greet or another public event to talk with her, so she intends to keep on working to meet every voter she can in our county.

She said she is looking for Boundary County voters who agree with her platform for change to help with her local campaign. Anyone interested is urged to email her at For more of her ideas, go to her website at

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