Last Week Wednesday, Wisconsin Lawmaker Jeff Wood was arrested for driving while intoxicated in the city of Tomah. At 4:23 pm, a concerned citizen called the Tomah Police Department fearful that Wood was going to kill someone. While driving, he was said to be swerving in and out of lanes nearly striking another vehicle and eventually falling asleep at the wheel in the middle of an intersection. When the cops caught up with Wood, they jailed after failing a sobriety test.
This isn't the first time Wood broke the law. In the past 10 months, Wood has been arrested three times. In December of 2008, he drove while intoxicated, destroyed public property, urinated in public, and was in possession of two bags of marijuana. After his release from jail, he apologized in a press release saying,
"There is no excuse for my actions, and I accept full responsibility. This is not typical behavior for me, but unfortunately, I drank too much and exercised very poor judgment."
Although Wood said he would "accept full responsibility", he sent his lawyer into court pleading "not guilty" four months later. Apparently, accepting full responsibility means legally denying guilt. Wood's lawyer also disputed the two bags of marijuana found in his car because highway troopers didn't have a search warrant to acquire them.
Jeffery Wood's driving record is only part of an overarching problem. Last year in July, Wood divorced himself from the Republican Party and ran for re-election as an Independent. Wood waited until the last day legally possible to file his paperwork so Republicans wouldn't have enough time to place an opponent on the November ballot. Interestingly, Wisconsin Democrats didn't place an opponent on the ballot either suggesting that Wood had struck a deal with Democrats earlier.
In 2008, Wood said he left the Republican Party because they weren't following Ronald Reagan's principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility. Oddly enough, in February of 2009, Wood voted to raise more than $600 million in taxes on hospitals, businesses, and consumers - an act not so consistent with Reagan's fiscal conservatism.
In September of 2008, at the time of Wood's second arrest, Wisconsin Republicans introduced a resolution to expel him from the Assembly - a resolution that would require Democrat support. Democrats, however, were reluctant to support the resolution because Wood had been voting with them on budgetary issues. In defense of Wood, Democrat Mark Pocan stated that the resolution to expel Wood was premature and represented a slippery slope of passing judgment on the personal conduct of lawmakers.
But drunk driving is not a matter of personal conduct. It happens to be a very public offense placing the public in danger. The problem isn't so much as a slippery slope for Democrats as it is a matter of protecting their swing vote.
After Wood's third arrest just last week, State Democrats finally submitted to the agreement of a formal investigation. The real question is why it takes five OWI arrests before they are willing to investigate a state assemblyman?
The problem seems fairly clear. In order to protect their majority vote, Wisconsin Democrats were willing to keep a drug addict and drunk driver in the State Assembly. Issued just recently, Representative Wood announced that he will not resign from office. He said,
" I think I can still do my job well and I don't at least for right now I don't see how a brand new freshman Democrat or Republican jumping in at the end of session when it's too late to even introduce bills could serve my constituent any better than I can"
How can he do his job when he's missing votes due to a 30 day in-patient treatment program in Minnesota? How can he do his job when he's doped up on drugs? How can he do his job when he, as a father and husband, desperately needs to repair his family? Democrats need to join Republicans by doing the right thing and expel this man from the State Legislature.