You may have seen it already, but another North Dakota lawmaker has been cited for a DUI. Just before midnight on Saturday, October 6th, Rep. Craig Headland (R – District 29) was stopped on Highway I-94 near Spiritwood and arrested. He was then booked into the Stutsman County jail where he posted a $500 bond, just over two hours later, and was released.
Headland made the following statement to the Jamestown Sun in regards to the incident:
“On Saturday, I had a terrible lapse in judgement and got behind the wheel of my car after drinking. I am thankful that I did not hurt anyone and take full responsibility for my actions. I pledge to the people of my district that this will not happen again.”
It just so happens that Headland is up for re-election next month. First elected in 2002, it’s unlikely that his “terrible lapse in judgement” will have much of an impact on his bid for another term in office. Its been about twelve years since an opponent has even come close to beating him. In fact, in his 2014 race, Headland prevailed by nearly 1,100 votes.
Unfortunately, alcohol related traffic offenses are nothing new when it comes to the North Dakota Legislature. Multiple lawmakers have dealt with situations similar to Rep. Headland’s. Yet, it seems the state’s electorate are pretty forgiving when it comes to these types of issues.
Rep. Josh Boschee (D – District 44) was convicted in 2006 and 2010 for reckless driving, put on probation, and ordered to undergo chemical dependency evaluations. Yet, he was elected to his first term in the legislature in 2012 and now he’s running for Secretary of State.
Our current Tax Commissioner, Ryan Rauschenberger, was arrested just a year ago for a DUI. But it seems that overall people didn’t concern themselves much with it— as was evidenced by the support shown him at a NDGOP leadership meeting. He’s now up for re-election against former state lawmaker/Dem-NPL Chairperson Kylie Oversen— who is actually trying to capitalize on Rauschenberger’s arrest by running this campaign video. We’ll know on November 6th whether she’s successful. I’m guessing she won’t be.
Why are North Dakotans so forgiving when it comes to alcohol-related traffic violations? Well, in part, I think it’s probably because more than a few of the electorate can relate to those whom they cast votes for. I wrote in March of 2017 that we have nothing to be proud of after the Peace Garden State was ranked second worst in the nation for DUI’s. Indeed, it’s not just the occasional lawmaker with a lapse in judgement.
The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem. And all indications are that North Dakota has one.