Today was a day for putting feet in mouth for Democrats and Republicans alike, it seems.
Last week after I broke the news here on SAB that Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger has been struggling with alcohol addiction, something that came to light after he loaned his car to an apparently drunk driver, Rauschenberger announced a leave of absence to seek treatment.
Now Rauschenberger’s Democrat opponent Jason Astrup has called on the incumbent to resign during that leave of absence. Which…seems a bit opportunistic:
Astrup, a Fargo attorney, is challenging incumbent Ryan Rauschenberger, who recently took a leave of absence for alcohol treatment.
“I think everyone’s health should come first,” Astrup said during a news conference at Fargo’s main library. “And in order to spend the time to get myself better, I don’t think I could adequately serve the people if I was in his shoes.” …
Not knowing all the facts of his opponent’s situation, Astrup stopped short of calling for Rauschenberger to resign.
“I think we all know the questions the (Democratic) party has laid out. I think they’re serious questions. Both parties have said Ryan needs to answer these questions,” Astrup said.
Astrup may have been better served by keeping his mouth shut. And yeah, it says he “stopped short of calling for Rauschenberger to resign,” but that’s a cop out, and not one that reflects well on Astrup.
Certainly Democrats and others are asking perfectly legitimate questions about Rauschenberger’s struggles with alcohol and how they’ve impacted his job performance, but if Astrup and Democrats have meant what they said about the importance of someone in Rauschenberger’s position finding a path back to sobriety, maybe they could wait until he’s actually able to answer those questions.
Alcoholism doesn’t have the stigma it once does. It’s a good thing that in our modern society, we believe that someone afflicted with addiction can rise above it. But it seems Democrats want to turn back the clocks on attitudes about addiction by demanding that Rauschenberger step down and thus hand them a de facto, pre-election day victory in a statewide race.
There’s plenty of time before election day for Rauschenberger to make his case for staying in office. Democrats should let that case be made.
Meanwhile, Republicans are busy deflecting this kinda-sorta call for Rauschenberger’s resignation by comparing alcoholism to…breast cancer (emphasis mine).
NDGOP Chairman Robert W. Harms released the following statement today regarding Ryan Rauschenberger’s opponent’s call for his resignation:
“The Democrat candidate for tax commissioner suggested today that Ryan Rauschenberger should resign while he seeks treatment for a disease. Would the question be the same if he had a different disease? Heidi Heitkamp, for example, ran for Governor in 2000 even as she received intensive treatment for cancer.
Millions of Americans have successfully managed this disease and have returned to their families and careers stronger than ever. We expect Ryan Rauschenberger will do the same and can serve as a positive model to others who struggle with alcoholism that it can be successfully dealt with.
Rauschenberger’s qualifications and experience, and his track record at the Tax Department and his leadership of the agency speak for themselves. He was instrumental in guiding the agency through the past two legislative sessions and has led the agency in implementing new online business tools all while processing record numbers of transactions.
Rauschenberger has also been a key figure in developing, implementing, and delivering well over a $1 billion in broad-based property and income tax relief over the last 5 years, and just weeks ago announced additional plans for sustaining and building upon the relief already provided. He is also one of few Tax Commissioners to hold both an MBA and an accounting degree.
Astrup, on the other hand, brings little in the way of qualifications or new ideas, as his press conference today demonstrated.
In the end, the office should be awarded by the people to the person with the best qualifications and the best ideas with which to serve the public, and that person is Ryan Rauschenberger. The focus should remain on those ideas, and not be diverted by questions about a disease from which millions of Americans recover.”
I think there’s a real opportunity for Rauschenberger to change his trajectory, to turn his life around and become the well-qualified and competent public servant that Governor Jack Dalrymple appointed as Tax Commissioner in the first place. Maybe he can even do that, and convince voters of it, before election day.
But comparing alcoholism to breast cancer?
Not only is that an apples-to-oranges comparison, it’s in poor taste. At the end of the day, drinking alcohol is a choice.
Nobody chooses to get cancer.