During the past week, I was startled to hear of the resignation of Matthew Barrett, the 58th District state representative that I voted for in 2006.
I ran for state representative, myself, in a neighboring district (the 56th), in the opposing political party, back in 2004, when I first met Barrett, who is a lawyer by profession. More than once, we were present at the same venues on the campaign trail. On occasion, I would be his foil for the points he’d make at debates, since his own opponent from his own district wouldn’t debate him. Though I had differences of political opinion with Barrett, he seemed like a straight-shooter, a family man, a person of integrity and intelligence, so I respected him. Neither Barrett nor I won election in 2004.
Between 2004 and 2006, I changed my residence from Oberlin, in Lorain County, to rural Bellevue, in Seneca County. When election time rolled around in November 2004, I was living in the same district as Barrett, and Barrett was a candidate again. Barrett’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican. The Republican nominee that was opposing Barrett was not someone that I supported. I decided to cross over and vote for Barrett that November, and Barrett won in a district that was more Republican than Democrat.
Barrett seemed to vote the right way (in my opinion) on many of the issues that came before the state legislature once he took office. He certainly seemed approachable and available to constituents. He even agreed to make a presentation to a high school class about some of the workings of state government, but what happened in that high school class was his undoing.
Last fall, in Norwalk, Ohio, State Representative Matt Barrett was making a presentation to a high school class. He had intended to illustrate his lecture with slides that had been prepared for him using PowerPoint on his laptop computer. The PowerPoint presentation was saved to a flash drive. However, when the first images appeared on the projection screen, they had nothing to do with state government. The first image was of a topless woman. An embarrassed Barrett shut off the PowerPoint presentation. It made news right away, but Barrett pleaded for the media to not pursue the matter further, as it was supposed that a teenage son of Barrett’s may have been the one who downloaded the images to a flash drive that overwrote the PowerPoint presentation that had previously been there. The premise for asking the media to let coverage of the event subside was that this was a parenting problem best handled within the family. The police, however, did carry out an investigation.
Several months have passed, and Barrett’s resignation is occurring now because the police investigation does not arrive at the same conclusion that was first arrived at. Apparently, a teenage son was used as a scapegoat. Barrett’s story wasn’t entirely truthful.
The Democrat Party members of the Ohio House of Representatives will choose a Democrat residing in the district to replace Matt Barrett. However, there will be elections this coming November. Barrett had won a Republican district. Is there anyone the Democrats can choose as a replacement who can hold that seat for the Democrats after the elections are over? I doubt that very much. Not only is it a Republican district, but the Republican nominee, Terry Boose has to feel like he’s been handed a gift. The Boose name is a respected name in Huron County (the county where half of the voters of the district live). The Boose family name has been familiar to me since my childhood when I lived in Berlin Heights, a village in Erie County that’s not far from the Norwalk area.
What should Barrett have done last fall when this event occurred? If he had told the truth, he still might have faced resignation, but the Democrats would have named a replacement much sooner, certainly before the current campaign season began, and his political party would have stood a better chance at holding on to the seat beyond the upcoming elections. Also, it is uncertain at this point whether the state bar association will consider seeking any disciplinary actions against Barrett for not telling the truth. If he had told the truth, he wouldn’t have put his employment as a lawyer at risk (he might have an out if he told the truth to the police, but we don’t know yet if that’s the case). Also, if he had told the truth, the media stories would have flourished for a short season, but then come to an end, and the embarrassment would have gone away sooner. Since the truth wasn’t told, this became a media story AGAIN, months later, not allowing the embarrassment to go away shortly after the first incident. Covering up only added another problem onto the one that already existed.
Though I’m Republican, I’m sad to see Barrett go down like this. After all, I voted for him.