A Republican legislator has been ruled ineligible for re-election because he does not live in his district, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Rep. Bob Barrett, a Republican representing District 32B, had claimed he lived in a rental home in Taylors Falls, but he also owns a home outside the district in Shafer.
DFL activists tracked activity at the rental home and presented their case to the courts, saying that Barrett was not actually living there six months before the election, and so did not meet the residency requirement.
A quirk in state law now nullifies the results of the upcoming November election because Barrett has been thrown off the ballot less than 80 days before the election. A Valentine’s Day special election will now determine the district’s lawmaker, the court affirmed.
Barrett released a statement in which he expressed disappointment in the decision and said he and his family had been subject to DFL harassment for the past three years, including “peeking in our bedroom windows, sitting in a car at the end of our street and setting up spy cams to surveil me from which over 800 photos were taken, not just of me but also of our neighbors.”
“As a former Democrat myself, I am ashamed for my former political party,” said Barrett, who was first elected in 2010 and serves as vice chairman of the House Taxes Committee.
Barrett also thanked his constituents and indicated he would not run in the February special election, which means Republicans will have to recruit a candidate and go through a nomination contest.
Stakes are high
The stakes of that special election could be enormous. Republicans currently control the House by a 73-61 majority. The House DFL caucus expects to pick up some seats due to higher turnout among their voters in a presidential election year. If the DFL picks up five or six seats in November, the House would stand at 67-66 until the February special election.
A tie would create House gridlock not seen in Minnesota since 1979, the last time there was a tie in the lower chamber.
Laurie Warner, the DFL candidate, released a statement: “The people of District 32B deserve a representative who is present in their community and working hard on their behalf. The saddest part of this situation is that when the legislative session begins in January the people of District 32B will not have a state representative.”
She called for a special election “as soon as possible.”
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, urged legislators to unseat Barrett if lawmakers decide to hold a special session before the January session.
“Every Minnesotan deserves a voice and a vote in the Minnesota House, but actions by Bob Barrett and Minnesota House Republicans are depriving voters of their state representative in the Minnesota House,” Thissen said.
DFLers gathered evidence
During multiple visits in July and August, DFL activists gathered evidence to prove Barrett was not living at the Taylors Falls rental property.
Tamara Monaghen, the plaintiff in the case, noted this week that campaign materials left outside the home’s door remained for days — as did a stick she put in the door that would have moved if anyone had gone in or out of the house. The home, according to court documents, is sparsely furnished and does not have cable, internet or trash pickup service.
Barrett pays $300 per month in rent on a lease that ends in December.
J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042