University of Oregon College Democrats President Hannah Argento is calling on James Barber, a fellow Democrat, to back out of the race for East Lane County Commissioner. Barber, who works at Sixel Real Estate as a principal broker and has not previously held public office, posted multiple inappropriate and misogynistic social media posts from 2010 to 2013.
Barber’s posts, which included tweets soliciting Twitter users for photos from a topless beach and Facebook posts joking about oral sex, came to light a few weeks ago.
Barber wrote on Facebook in 2010, “Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich #factsaboutboys.”
Argento and other members of the UO College Democrats signed their names on the now-defunct website dropoutjames.com, which called for Barber to back out of the race. The website detailed his responses to the accusations, as well as screenshots of his older posts on social media.
In a letter posted on the website, the group said there were “no words” to describe what they saw of Barber’s posts.
“The continuation of his candidacy would set a precedent that would allow this derogatory rhetoric to continue demeaning women and discouraging them from the democratic process and that is unacceptable,” the letter read.
On March 30, Barber made a post on his campaign’s Facebook page addressing the posts, saying that he acknowledges that they are “inappropriate in their humor” and is sorry that he made a “contribution to a culture that objectifies and dehumanizes women.” On April 1, Barber met with Argento and other College Democrats to discuss the matter and apologize for his comments.
In an interview with the Emerald, Barber said the discussion went well.
“I was able to talk about my background, and they already know that the work I’ve been doing, that I am a different person than when I made those posts,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to add into this culture of objectification. I was ignorant about it at the time.”
In a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, Barber detailed key points of that discussion, including how both parties got to understand how the other felt. He wrote that the College Democrats seek to help women in politics and keep misogyny out of elected positions, and that he felt attacked by what he saw as a “smear campaign” against him and that he has changed as a person since writing the posts.
“When faced with the inappropriate posts and their cringe-worthy content, I realized how much I had grown over the last 5 years,” he wrote. “Why would I be getting attacked over a handful of posts from so long ago, when I’ve clearly grown and changed?”
Argento said that despite accepting Barber’s apology as an individual, she holds a higher bar for how a future elected official thinks and acts.
“We thank James Barber for his apology and we accept it, however, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the candidate presented misogynistic viewpoints,” she said. “As a candidate, those posts and attitudes are unforgivable.”
The College Democrats made no endorsements for the race, but Argento said that under her leadership, the group will not endorse Barber.
“As long as I am president of College Democrats, I don’t believe that James Barber will ever receive our group’s endorsement,” she said.
Argento said the decision was difficult, as it went against party lines.
“I stand by my personal belief that he should step down as a candidate,” Argento said. “It’s disappointing to see that he is supported and endorsed by so many Democrats who claim to support women.”
When asked about his reaction to the College Democrats’ refusal to endorse him in the future, Barber said that it’s not unexpected.
“There’s a female in this race who they had supported prior to this, and I did not expect that decision to change,” he said. “I fully respect their desire to see more women in office and for the most part I share that desire.”
Follow Michael Tobin on Twitter: @Tobin_Tweets