OPINION: Should a Candidate’s History of Domestic Violence Matter?

Posted on December 6, 2022 by EDITORIAL BOARD

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Santa Rosa County had 771 cases of Domestic Violence during 2020. That’s up from 627 in 2019. One of those 2019 cases involved Mike Matthews, one of eight candidates seeking to be elected to Holley-Navarre Water System board of directors.

Matthews is known in the Navarre area for joining Wes Siler in Preserve Navarre videos which criticize organizations, locals, and elected leaders who don’t share their pro-incorporation agenda. Matthews is also known for his attitude toward employees at Holley-Navarre Water System. So it didn’t come as a big surprise when his arrest for battery was discovered during the typical candidate vetting process.

Per Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, Matthews was jailed March 16, 2019 after backhanding his wife. Per his arrest report, his wife told police he used the back of his hand to hit her face during an argument, giving her a “fat lip.” Subsequently, Matthews was placed on a Monitored Deferred Prosecution Agreement with a condition that he complete Anger Management.

When Matthews recently started a GoFundMe to raise money for his election campaign, I used my personal Facebook page to share a screenshot of his arrest. Why? Because domestic violence is a serious issue. U.S. Department of Justice research shows a domestic violence re-arrest rate of almost 60 percent for arrested abusers over an average of 5 years. 

Criticism over sharing his mugshot took place in Concerned Citizens of Navarre Facebook group:

AJ Alloco, a Preserve Navarre supporter who is suspected of not using his real name on Facebook (tagged as “Joseph” in a photo with Carolyn Bosworth Ahearn), wrote “Romi White is a cancer on this county.” Alloco’s repeated personal attacks on social media exemplifies why I’m so quick to utilize Facebook’s blocking function – even for people who think it’s benign to like or laugh at such comments. 

Robert Barnett, also a Preserve Navarre supporter, wrote “To Romi White, maybe we should publish what your ex has to say! Hurts to live in glass houses!! More coming!!” 

Actually, Robert, what hurts is being hit hard in the face by a man. You seem to want to my personal experience with domestic violence exposed. Sobeit. A former fiancé enjoyed hitting me in the face and even said so. Come to find out, his ex-wife had him arrested for domestic violence. After dozens of angry outbursts, I left. Walked out the door with clothes and started over. The only thing I kept was a voice message from a concerned man who warned that “ex” was making threats against my life.

Hopefully, not even my haters will ever experience true domestic violence at the hands of any man – or woman. But odds are that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will.

None of us know what people suffer behind closed doors. Many cases of domestic violence go unreported. All we might ever see of it is a fat lip, hematoma, or blood-filled or black eyes.

Therefore, we should all applaud women like Matthews’ wife who have the courage to report it. “It happened and we can’t change it. All we can do is do better and move forward,” she stated via social media. “I am very proud of his wanting to be involved in the community in the past few years. He’s one of the good guys and a hard-working, devoted family man.”

Support Matthews for the board if you choose. Fund his campaign if you like. But at least you’re armed to make an informed decisions about him now. 

To those for whom domestic violence is a deal breaker, there are seven other candidates from whom you can choose for the three open seats. Instead of funding his campaign, you could donate to Favor House of NWFL, which provides shelter to local victims of domestic violence.

Those reading this who might need help with a domestic violence situation can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

***EDITOR’S NOTE: Marisa Miles claimed on social media that Matthews’ wife was blocked by Publisher Romi White after White, using her personal Facebook page, shared Matthews’ mugshot and arrest information. That is completely false. White had previously blocked the Matthews months ago due to their attacks on this business and/or its employees.