Jewish values as our state’s values
Rep. Tana Senn
Born 1971, Chicago, Ill. Arrived in Washington, 2000
Tana Senn had an interest in politics from an early age. Her grandparents and great-grandmother, all Holocaust survivors, came to the U.S. in the 1970s and became citizens in the 1980s. It was the first time they had ever lived in a place where they could vote. Tana’s great-grandmother voted in every election, and Tana learned from her the importance of paying attention in the political arena.
Her father was politically active as well—his college roommates were Michael Dukakis and Carl Levin—and when the family would visit Washington, D.C., they would get special tours and visits to Capitol Hill.
Tana did her undergraduate work in Education and Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, then earned her Master of Public of Affairs in urban policy and women’s issues at Columbia University. She worked for the national Hadassah organization on policy, but decided in 2000 to jump on a plane to work on her cousin Deborah Senn’s campaign for the State of Washington’s Insurance Commissioner. When she came from the airport, Tana was taken with the water, trees, the urban quality and the industrial aspects. Having her degree in urban policy, she liked what she saw and felt like this was the right move. She hasn’t looked back.
As she got older, Tana thought she would prefer behind-the-scenes work and spent time working on policy for Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle as a volunteer and later as its director of communications and marketing. When she left that position, however, she decided it was the right time to be more visibly active in politics.
It started with a single event: a road safety issue on Mercer Island. When the city council approved the fix but didn’t fund it, Tana made an unsuccessful attempt to get appointed to the city council. This experience led her to pay closer attention to local issues. Not long after, Tana beat a crowded field to become a council member and her political career began.
But her big break came in 2013, when the King County Council appointed her to an open seat in the state legislature.
“I looked at my kids and I thought, ‘this is going to be really hard,’” she told the JTNews at the time. “I also looked at them and I thought, ‘I have to do this, because we need more women and people with kids in Olympia.’ I thought it was really important to do this.”
She has since won reelection and has focused on women’s representation, especially moving from local level to state level, funding education and finding revenue sources for the state.
She and her husband Kevin and two children are members of Temple De Hirsch Sinai. To carry on a tradition from her mother, who died a few years ago, Tana bakes a challah with her kids every week for Shabbat.