This former AP government teacher says he’s running for reelection to protect democracy and strengthen public education.

On Election Day, Nov. 8, Michiganders will be voting on a number of policies and candidates—including governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and state Supreme Court, plus three ballot proposals about term limits, voting rights, and reproductive freedom. 

Meet Matt Koleszar, a Democrat running for his second term in the Michigan House of Representatives, representing the 22nd House District—that’s Livonia, Plymouth, and Northville.

Koleszar is a former AP government teacher who’s embraced his role as the vice chair of the House Elections & Ethics committee, recently leading the passage of a new law that will allow votes to be collected more quickly, starting this election.

Having grown up in the community, Koleszar has led the fight to stop pollution and restore the environment in Northville, coordinating with the Michigan Attorney General’s office to arrange for a multi-million dollar payment from the owner of a landfill. In a shifting district that has a high share of independent voters, Koleszar’s race will be decisive for determining the policies and politics of Lansing.

3 Things to Know About Matt Koleszar:

  1. He’s a public school teacher-turned-public servant.

Koleszar is quick to highlight the teacher shortage plaguing Michigan schools, a struggle he knows firsthand. 

“There’s a [teacher] shortage in Michigan as well as the entire country,” Koleszar said. “I think it’s because of the demonization of teachers that has taken place over the last two decades. It’s because of the reduction of their pay, their benefits, their working conditions, our school supplies.”

Koleszar supported Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022 budget plan to provide more per-pupil funding to public schools, and incentives for attracting teachers to Michigan. More still needs to be done, he said.

As some Republicans lead attacks on public education, attempting to divert state funds to charter academies, Koleszar firmly believes that the only way to fix the teacher shortage and improve education in Michigan is to make a public investment in it.

“We also need to make sure we’re fully funding our public schools, which we aren’t doing right now,” Koleszar said. “We have made some progress and strides in doing it. We just had record levels of funding last year—thank you in large part to the governor. But that being said, we still have a long way to go.”

  1. He’s a supporter of election integrity.

In his role as vice chair for the Democrats on the Elections and Ethics House Committee, Koleszar regularly speaks to election officials, who have been pushing for more time to process absentee ballots. On Sep. 28, they got their wish, when the Legislature passed an unexpected reform to allow for two days of pre-processing.

“It was a way for us to work together and preprocessing was a big priority top of mind this term,“ Koleszar said, referring to a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

The compromise gave election officials five days fewer than many Democrats hoped, as seven days is the standard in many other states. But Koleszar said that the agreement with the Republican committee chair is a perfect example of compromise, and the changes will still make a difference—in his district and across Michigan.

Now, clerks will be able to unseal the ballots in advance. No votes will be counted before Election Day, but the extra prep time will let them skip some of the paperwork involved with absentee ballots by shedding the outer envelope, and instead focusing all their attention on actually tabulating votes.

In 2020, the delay between publishing in-person votes and absentee ballots contributed to conspiracy theories that votes were tallied in favor of Democrats after the election ended. In reality, with a swell of people who voted absentee, election officials couldn’t process all of the ballots as quickly as they could the in-person votes. This new bill will help with that, Koleszar said.

“It’s going to get them their results faster,” Koleszar said. “You know, one of the main things that cast doubt on the 2020 election, besides a fountain of misinformation: A lot of people were concerned about how long it took.”

  1. He’s a fighter for the environment and police officers.

One of Koleszar’s proudest achievements while in office was earning recompense for his district after a local landfill degraded the area through illegal dumping. Koleszar, alongside the Attorney General’s office, fought to protect neighbors of the landfill from health hazards, and to restore their environment.

“I’m a big believer in polluter pay,” Koleszar said. “You mess it up, you clean it up.”

Another victory he is proud of was his first bill signed into law in the Legislature, which zoomed through with bipartisan support. Because of Koleszar, the children of any firefighter or police officer who is slain in the line of duty can now go to any Michigan college, completely tuition-free. 

“I was helping people whose families make the ultimate sacrifice,” Koleszar said.