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August 24, 2006

McGavick's open letter, including his DUI

Posted by David Postman at 4:25 PM

On his campaign blog this afternoon Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick posted an open letter to voters, saying, "I have lots of faults, and I have made some mistakes that I deeply regret."

The top two "great failures" are the failure of his first marriage and arrest for drunken driving.

The second terrible mistake, which was difficult to discuss with my teenage son, was that I was cited for DUI when I cut a yellow light too close in 1993. I was driving Gaelynn home from several celebrations honoring our new relationship and should not have gotten behind the wheel. Thankfully, there was no accident, but it still haunts me that I put other people at risk by driving while impaired. All in all, it was and remains a humbling and powerful event in my life.

McGavick also talks about professional failings, as CEO of Safeco and as Slade Gorton's campaign manager in 1988 when he backed an erroneous campaign attack against Democrat Mike Lowry.

MORE: McGavick has sent mixed signals in the past about the Lowry ad. It claimed, based on an old article in the UW student paper, that Lowry favored legalizing marijuana. When questions were raised about the accuracy, McGavick stuck by it.

In 2002 he said in a speech: "We clearly need to raise the level of civil discourse in our community. If I see one more of those negative 30-second ads, I'm going to throw up — and I used to make them!"

But he told he earlier this month: "I have to admit that's a little bit of an overstatement."

Now he says that ranks among his top two professional failures. His blog says today:

We let the ad finish its week-long run. Though we never raised it again, we should have pulled it once evidence mounted that the Daily article was not an accurate reflection of his views

(CLARIFICATION: I don't have this Lowry stuff quite right. When McGavick told me the line in the speech was an overstatement, he meant that he hadn't done the sort of character attacks that he says have now become a regular part of so many campaigns. When we talked about it earlier this month he did express regret for not pulling the Lowry ad.)

As for Safeco, McGavick says he regrets telling employees after a round of layoffs in 2001 "that I thought the worst was behind us."

This led to real and justified hope by my Safeco colleagues that there would be no more lay-offs. I was wrong to raise such hopes. Several months later, it became clear that we still were not competing effectively, and it was not until after another round of layoffs that we really were able to turn the ship and set the company on the course it is on today.

MORE: McGavick has chosen an unusual strategy in trying to protect himself from negative stories and attack ads. I hadn't heard anything about his DUI before, but the rest of McGavick's list are not secrets and he certainly has gotten questions on all of them before.

He clearly is making a preemptive move:

Still, I know that the character attacks against me will not stop. So, how about I just tell you directly the very worst and most embarrassing things in my life for you to know, and then I will get back to talking about how much the U.S. Senate needs a new direction.

I don't know if Democrats were on to the DUI or not. Wouldn't surprise me. And McGavick gets no points from the Democratic spokesman for coming clean on his own. Said Kelly Steele:

"From privatizing Social Security to drunk driving it becomes clearer every day that Mike McGavick and George Bush are cut from the same cloth."

MORE: McGavick will be on Fox News tonight at about 9:20 as Brit Hume does a piece on the Washington Senate race.

McGavick's confession is unusual in substance, but I think unheard of in how it was delivered. McGavick chose to make the announcement on his campaign blog, not in a press release or a press conference. Some reporters were alerted to the posting, but it certainly was a softer opening to the story than it would have been if a reporter had dug up the DUI charge.

It's also interesting to see how McGavick wrote the post. The DUI is the most explosive bit, and the only one previously unreported. It is the second item in the post; not the lead where it would have attracted more attention or at the bottom where it would have led people like me to say it was buried. (McGavick is making himself available for interviews so the blog post doesn't stand alone.)

In 2004, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi volunteered to a Times reporter that he had been arrested for driving while drunk. He telephoned one day to say he had something to say. His arrest came when he was 18, and it never became any kind of issue in the campaign.

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