Another series of mailers targeting DFL House members up for re-election has again drawn the ire of the party after saying Democrats are responsible for “putting convicted drunk drivers back on the roads” for passing legislation requiring people with multiple DWI convictions to use an ignition-interlock device. The mailers also triggered a response from the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, locally, Minnesotans for Safe Driving.
The mailers, which again target at least half-dozen DFL House members, give various accusations that they voted to make it easier for convicted drunken drivers to get back behind the wheel. One calls St. Cloud Rep. Zach Dorholt a "bar owner" who “weakened penalties for horrific drunk driving crashes,” while another says Eagan Rep. Sandra Masin “Weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers. Putting our families in harm’s way?” imposed over a background of a shattered windshield. The mailers are each marked as paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
DFL House caucus spokesman Michael Howard said the mail pieces refer to HF 2255, legislation that requires people with multiple drunken-driving convictions to use an ignition-interlock device, which requires a breath test by the driver before the vehicle can be started. The bill passed 71-57 in the House and unanimously in the Minnesota Senate.
“These last-minute attacks are designed to leave candidates with no time to respond and set the record straight, and they are shameful,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said in a statement.
The mailers are the second in a row that drew ire from the DFL, after others accused lawmakers of making it easier for felons to work in schools. The mailer was in reference to a bill reforming the state’s expungement laws. The DFL alerted representatives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, who in a letter called the mailers “misleading.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to a request for comment.
The mailers also triggered a response from MADD National President Jan Withers, who said the organization backed the legislation because she said requiring an interlock device is more effective than license revocation alone.
“MADD supported these measures because simply hoping that convicted DWI offenders will not drive on a revoked license is bad public policy,” Withers wrote in the letter to Thissen. “License revocation without an interlock requirement is like using cancer treatments that were best practices 25 years ago. If this ‘treatment’ were effective, there would not be over 63,000 Minnesota residents with three or more DWI convictions on their driving records.”
The letter does not appear to address the mailers, but instead thanks lawmakers “for working to reform the state’s drunken-driving law.”
Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving and a victim of drunken driving, expressed similar support for the law in a letter to Thissen, while condemning the mailers.
"The idea that the Legislature was being soft on drunk drivers when they passed a bill in 2014 which allowed those arrested and/or convicted of (criminal vehicular operation) to have Ignition Interlock available to them is ridiculous." Johnson wrote.
Read the MADD letter below: