The slow demise of Matt Wingard

Carla Axtman

When Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) chose to enter Oregon House politics, he showed up with baggage. And not just the carry-on size. Wingard brought a steamer trunk full of personal foibles and accusations., not the least of which had to do with smacking his kid with a screwdriver.

After having spent some time in the job, things haven't improved much for him. Wingard has been dogged by allegations of plagiarism. His position on the House Education Committee is rife with conflict of interest issues and his unwillingness to work with colleagues has led to some legendary committee dysfunction.

It would appear that Wingard will need to acquire a new steamer trunk to contain the latest set of problems.

Nigel Jaquiss, Willamette Week:

A former aide to Deputy House Republican Leader Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) has accused him of giving her alcohol when she was underage, pressuring her to have sex, and keeping her on the public payroll after she ended the relationship with him and stopped reporting for work.

The former aide first approached the Oregon Department of Justice in January with allegations about Wingard’s conduct, which she says took place in 2010, beginning when she was 20.

The DOJ, and later the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, interviewed the woman. Both agencies declined to bring charges, concluding there was no crime committed or the statute of limitations had run out. Neither agency interviewed Wingard about her allegations.

Wingard, 39, is a former TV reporter who was first elected to the House in 2008 and is a rising star in his caucus. In addition to his legislative responsibilities, he serves as a spokesman for Oregon Connections Academy, the state’s biggest online charter school.

Wingard acknowledges the woman worked for him and he had a sexual relationship with her. But he says the relationship was consensual and he never provided her with alcohol when she was underage.

“I am confident all the facts will come out and my name will be cleared,” Wingard tells WW.

Setting aside the notion that an individual as questionable as Wingard is considered a "rising star in his caucus", I wonder how many more times this guy can go to the "I didn't do this thing and this is nothing more than my political enemies trying to get me" well.

This latest round of allegations prompted Wingard to resign his leadership post with the caucus. Interestingly, it appears he did it of his own volition, rather than his Republican peers taking action. I'm not sure what it says about a GOP House Leadership that doesn't have the basic decency to get rid of a guy who is having sex with his subordinate--even if consensual, it sets up a very bad precedent, not to mention possible legal trouble down the road. It's just dangerous and stupid on Wingard's part and he should know better. But if even part of this woman's story is true in terms of sexual coercion, Wingard ought to lose his committee chairmanships and be forced to take a back seat. These alleged actions are reprehensible.

Republican co-Speaker Bruce Hanna has some serious explaining to do.

Contrast this with Democratic co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, who stripped Democrat Mike Schaufler of his committee assignments after Schaufler was accused of groping a woman's breast at an AFL-CIO event.

The inability of Hanna to police Wingard and hold him accountable here is deeply problematic. It shows a fundamental weakness in their leadership--which frankly may explain why a guy like Wingard has been able to elevate himself in their ranks. Even if people agree with Wingard on policy, sleeping with his subordinate (which Wingard says he did) is a serious dirtbag move, which reflects badly on House Republicans.

  • (Show?)

    "I'm not sure what it says about a GOP House Leadership that doesn't have the basic decency to get rid of a guy who is having sex with his subordinate--even if consensual, it sets up a very bad precedent, not to mention possible legal trouble down the road."

    Maybe it means they were taking notes during the Clinton years.

    • (Show?)

      Honestly, Jack. Is that the best you can do? Clinton bashing to justify indefensible behavior?

      • (Show?)

        I'm not justifying anything. Carla asked a question and I answered it. Since the Clinton years, the official Democratic party postion is that consensual sexual behavior with a subordinate employee is perfectly okay in government employment.

        • (Show?)

          Official? No.

          Maybe unofficial. Or even "official".

          But not official.

          Unless you've got a citation for that claim.

          • (Show?)

            And if GOPpers are going to go down that road, then it appears that the "official" Republican Party position is that hiring prostitutes is perfectly acceptable in elected officials, since they not only didn't oust David Vitter, he won re-election.

  • (Show?)

    Didn't former state Rep. Rod Johnson resign after similar allegations surfaced?

  • (Show?)

    Make your story about Matt Wingard, fair enough. He deserves the criticism and censure.

    Use this to try to paint a broad brush stroke on all Republicans, there goes your credibility. Just another partisan hack trying to score a few cheap political points.

  • (Show?)

    I found this article because I track Internet mentions of my maiden name as part of my genealogy research. The article definitely caught my interest. Not being an Oregonian, I obviously don't know all the facts. Has there been proof of illegal activities by Wingard or are the comments offered here unsubstantiated opinions?

  • (Show?)

    Wingard is a far right, ALEC member. I personally can't stand him because he is horrid on land use legislation. In my opinion, he should not serve on the Education Committee because I believe he is employed by one of those "internet schools" and he gets legislation passed that ends up getting money to that company. I don't think he should be on the Ed Committee because of his harmful actions toward his own son.

    It sounds like both Rep. Kevin Cameron and Co-Speaker Hanna covered this up until exposed by excellent investigative reporting by Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week.

    Shouldn't this situation be turned over to the Ethics Committee (if one still exists)?

    I think we should all try to help the campaigns of those running against Wingard, Cameron, and Hanna. It would be so fantastic to get Wingard out of the House!

  • (Show?)

    Breaking -Wingard resigns leadership over revelations of sexual misconduct.

  • (Show?)

    Both parties have done too much protecting sleazebags in power. We could go all the way back to Hatfield and Packwood, or more recent examples. Removing Schauffler of his committee assignments showed rare courage. We will have many opportunities in the future will give us all an opportunity to be courageous.

connect with blueoregon