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Newton Democratic leader staying home to attend national convention as delegate
Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention delegate Ryan Barrett of Porterdale attends a virtual meet-and-greet event between Georgia delegates and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden and wife, Jill, recently. - photo by Special to The Covington News

PORTERDALE, Ga. — Newton County resident Ryan Barrett is preparing to attend his first Democratic National Convention as a delegate.

But he — like others planning to attend any type of large-scale event this year — will be forced to attend the Wisconsin-based event beginning Monday virtually from his Porterdale home rather than in close proximity to thousands of others in a convention hall.

The Democratic National Convention Committee chose to offer most of its programming for convention-goers online rather than in The Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee because of safety concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barrett is the Georgia Democratic Party’s 4thCongressional District chairman and chairman of the Newton County Democratic Party. 

Party members elected him as a delegate from the 4thCongressional District in May.

“I was very excited about attending this year,” he said.

However, party leaders made changes as the pandemic progressed — ultimately allowing presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden to accept the nomination from his Delaware home on Thursday night.

Barrett said he was able to participate in a “virtual cocktail hour” on a Zoom call with Biden and his wife, Jill, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently. 

Biden “reminded me of someone you’d see at a family barbecue,” Barrett said.

“I think he’s someone who’s very well-read,” he said.

Barrett said he hoped the selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., “can assure people” Biden found someone who can step into the presidency if needed.

He noted Biden, who was former President Barack Obama's vice president from 2008 to 2016, will be the oldest elected president at age 78 when inaugurated and needed a vice president who was “young and vibrant.”

“I think that Kamala is a solid pick — she balances out the ticket,” he said. 

“She is a force to be reckoned with and, to be honest, I cannot wait to see her take the stage with (Vice President) Mike Pence," Barrett said.  “I believe that the stark contrast between her abilities and Mr. Pence will really shine a light on the competency of this ticket."

Barrett said he also has voted online for the 92-page party platform the convention will adopt and he “generally” favored most of what was in the document.

However, he also said he believed it should have addressed calls from some within the party for legalization of marijuana nationwide. 

“It was surprising they left it off,” he said.

Barrett, who works in the health care field, said he did not use the drug but believed the national party should discuss favoring its legalization. 

He said it could be taxed like tobacco products or alcoholic beverages and the proceeds used to fund education.

Barrett will be among 111 Georgia delegates. 

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, who is one of Newton County’s two representatives in the U.S. House, will be an automatic delegate by virtue of his elected office. Johnson represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District which includes western Newton County. 

Newton's other congressman is U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, who represents the 10th Congressional District which includes eastern Newton County.