Like many these days, the Jarratt family in Round Lake Beach lost a job, missed mortgage payments and wound up in foreclosure.
"I was seven months underemployed before I missed my first house payment," said Linwood "Lennie" Jarratt, whose bank foreclosed more than a year ago and now has the matter in court.
Contact information ( * required )
"Every time she goes," Jarratt said of his wife, Lisa, "the courtroom is full with people in foreclosure. I'm living that reality."
While foreclosures are a matter of public record if one wants to look, the difference in this case is that Jarratt is a candidate for public office.
It could be a tactic by a candidate who figures the opposition would unearth and make political hay of the situation or simply a desire to be honest, but Jarratt is sharing the story with anyone who wants to hear it.
"If I'm going to run for office, everybody needs to know who I am," said Jarratt, a longtime activist and co-founder of the Lake County Tea Party. "I'm a normal person."
Getting in front of a matter of this nature is not necessarily in the standard political playbook.
"I think it is unusual but it's certainly something we've been pushing a long time -- just be honest with the voters," said Bob Cook, Lake County Republican Party chairman. "People will forgive you if you're not trying to hide things."
Unfortunately, foreclosure is something many in Lake County are experiencing, Cook said.
While a candidate in the 2010 Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh didn't mention a prior foreclosure. After he was elected, Walsh acknowledged he should have disclosed it during the campaign. He explained that at the time he considered it a personal problem.
Jarratt is one of three declared candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the 31st state Senate seat, which opened when incumbent Suzi Schmidt decided not to seek re-election amid family issues.
The others hopefuls are former longtime Lake County Board member Larry Leafblad of Grayslake and Michael White of Lindenhurst, a marketing and design expert for small businesses.
Filing to run for state legislative offices is Nov. 28 to Dec. 5. The primary is March 20, 2012.
Jarratt was laid off as part of a restructuring at the Chicago-based free market advocacy group where he worked. He started a website design and social media business, but knowing finances could get tight, he began pre-emptive discussions with his mortgage holder.
In July 2010, after seven months of struggles, Jarratt missed his first house payment he said. In October, his business secured a contract that would have helped matters. But before he got paid, the bank demanded the missed payments in full and began foreclosure proceedings, he said.
Lake County court documents show Jarratt had a 30-year mortgage of $151,760 when the foreclosure action began. He hired a lawyer and the matter is in negotiation, with the next court date in March. Jarratt said there has been progress of late and he hopes the family will be able to keep the house.
Jarratt, his wife and two kids are still in the house they bought in 2003 but have made many lifestyle adjustments.
Garden vegetables and comparison shopping help with the food bills. Solar lamps are used inside at night, the thermostat has been lowered and the front door, rather than the overhead garage door, are used to cut electricity use. Their newest vehicle is a 2004 pickup truck.
"My wife actually makes her own laundry soap," Jarratt said.
He said he was frustrated because he tried to be proactive before missing a payment. But when that didn't work, his family found itself in a situation shared by many, including others in his neighborhood.
"It's a very humbling experience to go through something like this," he said. "We meet people every day who are going through this and they're asking us questions."
Jarrett's situation doesn't jump from his campaign website but it's there for review with a quick search. Click on the "foreclosure" window on the home page and he reiterates that he is living the reality of foreclosure. More details are listed under a different page involving his background.
Jarratt said he knew it would be a matter of time before the news of his foreclosure became public, but the majority of those he has spoken with were "very surprised I would mention that and discuss it."
"Everything I've been working on the past six years is about transparency and honesty," said Jarratt.
Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Springfield, said it is a given that candidates for office will be scrutinized.
"What most professionals will tell you is if you take on a campaign, the first thing you do is opposition research on the candidates," he said.
There are different ways to deal with potential issues, he said.
"You can either put it out there and hope it's a one-day story or you can decide you want to make it part of your personal narrative," Redfield said.
Being in foreclosure isn't as damaging as something like having an order of protection against you, he added.
Leafblad said he has made sure his 1997 business bankruptcy is public knowledge, but adds he already has heard false rumors about himself.
"There's an old saying: 'Get to trouble before it becomes twins'," Leafblad said, describing Jarratt as an "honorable" man.
"I wouldn't call (foreclosure) a bad situation, I would call it a real life situation," added White, the third candidate in the GOP field. "It's good to be upfront with people, I feel."
"I think it's happening more and more but we're seeing people get involved in the process who are not the 'career politician' type and that brings a certain honesty with it," Cook said.