Local Opinion: Rauschenberger deserves another shot after DUI
“It has not impacted my job.”
That’s what North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger told me during an interview on my radio show this week (you can catch the audio at SayAnythingBlog.com if you’re interested).
He was talking about his struggles with alcohol addiction, and I pushed him hard on the issue. It’s a sensitive one. I’m certain Rauschenberger is uncomfortable talking about it.
Who wouldn’t be?
But his answers to my admittedly blunt inquiries were candid. “It’s not something that you snap your fingers and it’s cured,” he told me.
In 2014, Rauschenberger’s vehicle was involved by a drunk driving accident. The tax commissioner, drinking during the day on a Tuesday, had loaned his vehicle out to a drinking buddy who was inebriated. After the incident Rauschenberger admitted to me that he had a drinking problem.
He took a few weeks off from his duties as tax commissioner and came back visibly healthier. He convinced voters he was worthy of being elected to a full term in his office to which he’d been appointed by former Governor Jack Dalrymple.
But then last year Rauschenberger got a DUI, and voters are understandably curious as to whether or not he has his drinking problem under control.
I asked Rauschenberger about what steps he’s taking to address the problem. He said he attends what he calls “after care” weekly on Thursdays after work. He said he also works one-on-one with a counselor and is on a private regimen.
Has he ever turned up hungover at work?
“I’m not sure if I’d call it hungover,” he told me, but said there were times at work when he “wasn’t feeling myself.”
Has he missed work due to his drinking problem outside of the time he took during the 2014 election cycle to seek treatment?
“There was some time in 2014 when I took some time off,” he said.
Had he been drinking regularly prior to his DUI last year?
“I’ve had a couple of slip ups in the past,” he said acknowledging the DUI wasn’t the first time he’s fallen off the wagon since 2014, “but not drinking regularly.”
“In hindsight it was a blessing,” he said of publicly admitting to his drinking problem in 2014, noting that it prompted him to seek help.
Rauschenberger is going to face more tough questions about his struggles with alcohol addiction. The 2014 incident was strike one. The DUI was strike two. Voters want to be sure they won’t see a strike three if he’s re-elected.
Certainly Democrats — if not their candidates then their various surrogates in the media — can be expected to make an issue of Rauschenberger’s struggles.
What I’m hoping for is a redemption story. Proof that someone like Rauschenberger, accomplished and talented at his job, can be successful despite struggling with addiction as so many do.
Voters should give him another chance, though Rauschenberger should know that it’s probably the last.