Earlier this week, news broke that Republican Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel admitted to having been arrested and ultimately cited for drunk driving in 1990. In a statement, Schimel categorized his arrest and citation for drunk driving as “[A] terrible error of judgment as a young person,” and he said he deeply regretted the mistake he made. Schimel went on to note his commitment to “fighting crime and making Wisconsin a safer state,” while citing his efforts to combat drunk driving.

While I don’t believe Schimel’s drunk driving citation in 1990 has much bearing on his fitness to serve as Attorney General, I think the bigger issues are his inability (or unwillingness) to be more forthcoming about the situation prior to it being discovered by others as well as the influence that citation had in terms of his position on the issue of criminalizing first offenses for drunk driving. Schimel is on record as being skeptical of criminalizing first-offense drunken driving incidents. Under existing law in Wisconsin, first offenses for drunk driving are treated as traffic citations rather than crimes, making Wisconsin the only state in the country to handle first offenses for drunk driving in such a manner.

In the words of one Democratic strategist, “Schimel’s campaign is in serious trouble. He screwed up on admitting to his own OWI citation, and even Republicans seem to be running for the hills.”

The belief that Brad Schimel’s campaign could be in trouble is shared by none other than Jeff Wagner, part of the right-wing squawk talk radio brigade that typically carries so much water for Republicans in Wisconsin. Here’s what Wagner had to say about the revelations of Brad Schimel’s drunk driving arrest:

The significance of Schimel’s statement is, of course, magnified because Schimel will be the Republican nominee for Wisconsin Attorney General this Fall. In making his comments, Schimel opined that his campaign handlers “probably would not want him expressing his views on the issue”.

Maybe Schimel should have listened to his advisors.

I’ve known Brad for many years. I consider him to be an outstanding prosecutor and a very good person. I think he’d make an outstanding Attorney General.

I also think he’s dead wrong on this issue.

Moreover, I think his position is so out-of touch that he just may have cost himself the election.

I don’t know if Brad Schimel’s drunk driving arrest has cost him the Attorney General election, but I do know he needs to answer some questions about why he’s just now revealing the arrest and if that arrest has influenced his reluctance to criminal drunk driving first offenses.

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6 Responses to So about Brad Schimel’s drunk driving arrest..

  1. When I first read the articles in the media I rather thought it was a non-event and that Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel handled himself pretty well. Whether his current stance on how to treat first offense DWI is valid or not is up to the voters at this point.

    But in the meantime it looks like Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne as is own little story to tell( http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/ismael-ozanne-becomes-second-ag-candidate-to-admit-to-drinking-incident-b99181160z1-239509251.html) :

    Ozanne, a Democrat, had consumed what for an adult would have been a legal amount before crashing his car in 1986 as a 16-year-old, his campaign said in a statement.

    A breathalyzer test showed Ozanne had a blood alcohol content of .04, which was below the state’s legal limit at the time, and Ozanne was not cited for drunken driving. But he was cited under the state’s “not a drop” rules, which prohibit youth under the legal drinking age from having any alcohol in their blood while driving. Ozanne paid a fine and lost his license for 90 days.

    “This was a mistake I made as a teenager and I learned a valuable lesson,” Ozanne said. “I took responsibility for my actions and I knew, even then, how fortunate it was that no one was physically injured.”

  2. nonquixote says:

    First time offense (depending on severity) could be treated as misdemeanors, less than felonies but more than a traffic ticket, with a expunging of the record, should treatment, counseling and repetition of behavior behind the wheel, not happen again for a period of time. First repeat offense drop the hammer harder. But in saying that, we all know the results of stiffer penalties will fall disproportionally on the poor and minorities.

    So who what and where should we be looking to or at, to help solve the drinking problem in the state. How about education, decriminalizing marijuana, providing for stiffer penalties and rules on the members of the WI Tavern League, criminalizing their lobbyists perhaps, tax sport teams and networks for a huge proportion of alcohol advertising revenue, earlier education, counseling and of course, eliminating one of the biggest causes of drunk driving, the desperation of poverty.

    Nothing much to deter the problem of excessive consumption of alcohol will become of this latest flap is my prediction. Neither candidate attempting to hide past behavior is about as positive an outcome as I see here. Small truths. That has proven to be a rare commodity with the current Walker administration.

    • Yeah, I’m inclined to agree with you. First time offenses could definitely be treated as misdemeanors, with the opportunity for alcohol treatment and expungement with no further problems.

      I also think we as a state need to examine and then work to change how we view binge drinking, because we can’t punish our way out of this problem.

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