Editorials

GOP plays dirty trick with DWI attack ad. The truth about the Democrat was bad enough

Republicans are hammering Democrat Chad Stachowicz for his DWI conviction.
Republicans are hammering Democrat Chad Stachowicz for his DWI conviction.

Voters in Sen. Dan Bishop’s Mecklenburg County district have been getting inundated with piece after piece of mail portraying Bishop’s opponent as an irresponsible drunk driver. But what’s the real story with Chad Stachowicz?

Stachowicz is a Democrat challenging Bishop in Senate District 39, which covers much of south Charlotte from Dilworth to I-485 and over to Matthews and Mint Hill. It should be a fairly safe seat for Bishop and Republicans. But it was recently redrawn, bringing in thousands of voters who have never before voted for Bishop, the father of the notorious HB2. Combine that with a predicted “Blue Wave,” and Republicans are treating Stachowicz as a very real threat.

They have unleashed a prolific direct mail campaign focused on a DWI conviction on Stachowicz’s record.

“They make me look like an animal,” Stachowicz told the Observer editorial board this week.

It’s hard to know how much to believe from political attack ads, so we took a closer look. Some of it is dirty politics that reflects poorly on Bishop. But some of it raises very real questions about Stachowicz that should give all voters pause.

First, the facts: Stachowicz was found guilty of DWI in 2008, when he was 23 years old. He had a blood alcohol level of .21, almost triple the legal limit for driving. He was required to go to 40 sessions of treatment and classes, he says.

“I’ve told people a cop got me off a road that evening,” he told the editorial board. “I’m happy because frankly who knows what happens if that night doesn’t happen and I don’t shape up.”

So what’s misleading? The mail pieces strongly suggest that Stachowicz drove drunk very recently, not a decade ago when he was 23. “34-year-old Democratic State Senate Candidate Chad Stachowicz was convicted for driving drunk…” one ad falsely says. The ads also include a Charlotte Observer report with the date April 2, 2018, suggesting that’s when the violation occurred. DWI is an extremely serious offense at any age, but it’s only fair to be clear that Stachowicz’s conviction was when he was 23, not 34.

As it turns out, Republicans didn’t need to resort to such tricks, because they had other ammunition in hand that fairly raises questions about Stachowicz’s character. In a private online chat just three years ago, Stachowicz said “before I was caught I drove drunk a lot” and, scarily, said, “I don’t drive if I’m over the limit, which I consider to be 3 the first hour.” He also argues at length that texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving.

Stachowicz points out now that in that chat he also said he regrets his DWI and argues he was being remorseful.

The Observer editorial board found other private online chats from 2014 and 2015 in which a profane Stachowicz repeatedly talks about his heavy drinking. In a chat from August 2014, he says he “just got home from an NFL preseason game so a bit wasted,” and reminisces with another person in the chat room about how “we used to go out and get wasted dude.” He said in that chat he was “about 10 drinks deep.” In another chat, from February 2015, he says, “I’m getting drunk now by myself to celebrate” his earning a technical certification he had failed multiple times before.

To be sure, it’s not illegal to drink or get drunk, and there’s zero evidence Stachowicz has driven after drinking since that arrest 11 years ago. And he has successfully built a business and created a small number of jobs. But he has shown poor judgment and an immaturity that we think is unbecoming of someone aspiring to be a state senator.

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