York County office-seekers address DUI records, including a felon
York County Treasurer candidate Ryan Supler "absolutely" expected his DUI record — including a felony charge — would surface with his run for office.
"The press and the public are the ones doing the vetting — (it's) like the human resources department after I get the initial nod from a hiring manager," he said.
The Democrat isn't alone, though.
Two other candidates for York County offices also have drunken-driving records: Commissioner candidate Blanda Nace and Clerk of Courts candidate Dan Byrnes, both of whom are Republicans.
Supler has two DUI convictions, one of which included a felony charge for fleeing or attempting to elude an officer. In that 2012 case, he pleaded guilty to fleeing, resisting arrest and DUI, according to court records.
Pennsylvania had traditionally barred all felons from holding office under its "infamous crimes" standard.
In recent years, courts have taken a more case-by-case approach. For example, a York County judge ruled in 2012 that a felony conviction decades earlier did not bar Michael Helfrich from serving on York City Council. He's now the mayor.
York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King said his office wasn't aware of Supler's felony conviction. King declined further comment regarding Supler's eligibility for office until District Attorney Dave Sunday is available to address the issue.
Supler received his second DUI last year. He has not yet made a plea and is still dealing with the matter, he said.
"I've struggled (with alcohol) since I was a teenager," the 31-year-old said. "In my teen years, it got out of control. In my 20s, it was out of control. I've been a problem drinker, and it's time to grow up."
Supler has since entered and completed an alcohol treatment program and has been sober for more than four months, he added.
Byrnes, 38, also has a pair of DUIs, which took place while he was living in Arizona. He pleaded guilty to a DUI in 2006 and to another in 2016. Both were misdemeanors.
A former U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran, he attributed his troubles to the transition period after his service, adding he has since "rebuilt" his life and acknowledges the court system's accountability can be a catalyst for change.
"I have always been open about, and deeply regret, the poor choices I made years ago when I lived in Arizona," Byrnes said. "As many who have served in our armed forces know, the transition from combat to civilian life can be a turbulent time in a warrior's life."
Nace, 46, was charged with a misdemeanor DUI in 2011 and then entered into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. He completed it in 2012, but he said he never took steps get his record expunged.
Nace allegedly had a blood-alcohol content of 0.112 percent while driving, and — while he owns up to the mistake — he said he's not not ashamed of his past and he expected the matter to come up when he decided to run. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08.
"I prefer to talk about the issues," Nace said. "I made a mistake years ago and learned my lesson. I think about it almost every day."
DUIs aren't necessarily campaign-killers.
In 2000, then presidential candidate George W. Bush's 1976 DUI arrest made front pages nationwide just before the election. He won and later was re-elected to a second term.
Fast-forward to last year, when then-Democratic nominee Beto O'Rourke's 1998 drunken-driving arrest surfaced in the Texas Senate race.
He lost to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, but he came within three percentage points of winning.
O'Rourke is now seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.
Meet our staff: Logan Hullinger John Pavoncello, The York Dispatch