Kennedy ad: Unfolding Stapleton DUI story suggests lack of candor

Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy has released an ad calling into question her GOP opponent Walker Stapleton‘s fitness for office based on his 1999 arrest for drunk driving. In the new ad and in the release she sent to supporters accompanying the ad, Kennedy argues that the way the story of the accident has slowly trickled out based on press investigations suggests Stapleton has been less than forthcoming. She argues that judgment and candor are essential in a state treasurer, whom taxpayers entrust to invest billions of their dollars and to do so in transparent way so that stakeholders can hold them accountable.

The Stapleton campaign did not immediately return requests for comment.

As reported by the Colorado Independent and the Denver Post, the version of events Stapleton has provided about his DUI accident in San Francisco doesn’t square with court documents and victim testimony.

At a debate last month, Stapleton admitted to the accident but said a cab had run a blinking yellow light and struck his car.

Court records and accounts provided to the Colorado Independent by a woman injured in the accident suggest Stapleton may have been driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (pdf) and ran a red light at 2:30 in the morning, smashing into the cab and sending it spinning. It appears he never got out of his car to see if the people he hit needed help. The passenger in the cab told the Colorado Independent Stapleton drove down the street. She said he seemed about to drive away and was only prevented from doing so because two taxi drivers who had witnessed the accident prevented him from moving. One stopped his cab in front of Stapleton’s SUV while the other stopped his cab behind the SUV.

Stapleton was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, injuring two women and attempting to flee the scene of the accident.

The hit and run charge was later dropped and Stapleton plead no contest to a lesser DUI charge. As part of the plea agreement, he appears to have paid restitution to both victims, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, was placed on probation for two years and performed what he called “community service.”

In fact, Stapleton appears to have been sentenced to 20 days jail time but he served that time through SWAP, a Sheriff Work Alternative Program, in which enrollees pay a fee and do work for the sheriff’s office. SWAP is considered a jail sentence. If Stapleton refused to show up for work, a warrant for his arrest would have been issued and he would have landed in jail. SWAP is not community service.

Asked repeatedly about the accident, the Stapleton campaign has provided little detail, admitting only to the fact that the passenger in the cab was mildly injured and saying that Stapleton was not attempting to flee the scene. Campaign Manager Michael Fortney told the Colorado Independent that Stapleton was merely looking to get out of the way of traffic, that he explained as much to officers at the scene and that’s why the hit-and-run charge was dropped. Although two victims are listed in the court records, Stapleton has not said who the second victim was or how she was injured. The campaign only asserted that no pedestrians were hurt in the accident and so far has not commented on whether or not Stapleton had been under the influence of substances other than alcohol on the night of the accident.

Here is Kennedy’s release explaining her decision to run the ad:

When Colorado voters are looking at who they want to hire to manage $6 billion of their money, trust matters. Voters need to know that their State Treasurer will be forthcoming and honest.

I recently learned that my opponent, Walker Stapleton, had a car accident in 1999 in which he was convicted of a DUI and charged with a hit and run and failing to render care at the scene of the accident.

Stapleton had been a candidate for an office of public trust for over a year before finally being forced to disclose this record by a debate moderator.

My opponent’s failure to be forthcoming with voters, and the seriousness of these charges, raise real concerns in my mind that I believe Colorado voters should know about.

I learned as much as possible about the incident before deciding to run this ad. I spoke to a victim in the accident and she confirmed that the charges are true.

I do not like negative attacks. But I do believe this incident is serious enough that Colorado voters need to know about it.

You can see the ad here.

Thank you,
Cary Kennedy

A recent 9News and Denver Post Survey USA poll puts Kennedy and Stapleton in a near dead tie among voters. Kennedy trails Stapleton by 3 points, well within the margin of error.

Kennedy has been endorsed widely in the press for her long experience with public sector budgets and finance and for steering the state to profitable returns on investment during the recession and financial collapse.

Kennedy has been endorsed widely in the press for her long experience with public sector budgets and finance and for steering the state to profitable returns on investment during the recession and financial collapse.

Stapleton is a member of the wealthy and political Stapleton-Bush clan. His great grandfather was the well-known mayor of Denver. His second cousin is the former president George H. Bush. Stapleton’s professional life consists mainly of work performed for his family in its various real estate ventures. His extended family has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his run for treasurer and he makes no bones that he has political ambitions that go beyond this race.

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