Senator suspected of DWI says he's giving up drinking

Sunday, October 28, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A state senator who was arrested last weekend on suspicion of driving while intoxicated said he's giving up drinking.

So are his political supporters. During a kickoff fundraiser for his re-election campaign Friday, Sen. Chuck Graham canceled a previously scheduled cash bar.

"I didn't think it would be prudent," said Graham, D-Columbia.

Columbia police said they were called to an accident on Oct. 20 in which Graham's car rear-ended another vehicle, which then hit a third vehicle. A police report says Graham initially denied drinking but later acknowledged he'd had two beers.

He denied repeated requests to take a breath test, police said, who later got blood and urine samples. Tests on those are pending and Graham has not yet been charged.

As he entered Friday's fundraiser on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus, he called the episode "humbling" and said it had forced him to re-evaluate some things in his life.

"No. 1, I'm not drinking any more," he said. "That's a personal decision on my part. I feel good about that, and I'm actually embracing that. It'll certainly be a personal challenge."

Graham refused to discuss details of the incident but said he didn't plan to resign from office.

When asked if he had driven while intoxicated in the past, Graham said, "Not that I'm aware of."

Graham's record in the House shows he voted to cut funding for the Missouri Division of Liquor Control and supported easing restrictions on how close bars could be located to churches and schools. He said he stands by those votes and doesn't think his arrest reduces his effectiveness as a legislator.

Students gathered outside of the fundraiser were divided on whether Graham is correct in that opinion.

Jeremy Hagen, 23, held a sign saying "Lawmaker or Lawbreaker?"

"We thought it was important to get the message out that students at Mizzou, at least those with a certain political affiliation, do not support drunk driving," said Hagen, a member of the MU College Republicans.

Rick Puig, president of the Young Democrats of Missouri, said people who know of Graham's record would support him.

"Certainly, I was disappointed to hear it, and I recognize that people make mistakes," Puig said. "But at the end of the day, Chuck Graham has done a fantastic job of championing the rights of students and being proactive for this university. And I'm willing to forgive."

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