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Port: Let's not forget that the superintendent is also a human being

I have some personal experience with how Baesler is feeling this morning. Several years ago, I was also arrested for driving under the influence. The hangover I had the next morning was nothing compared to the pain of shame and regret I felt.

Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota superintendant of public instruction, speaks Thursday, June 14, 2018, at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee meeting in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota superintendant of public instruction, speaks Thursday, June 14, 2018, at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee meeting in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — Late last night, news broke about the arrest of Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota's superintendent of public instruction, on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Baesler is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but she's already issued something of an admission of wrong-doing in a statement given to the press.

"I made a serious mistake last night. I let down my team at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. I let my family down. I let myself down. I am deeply sorry for my actions. I am going to learn from this, seek help, and focus on my well-being and health," she said.

I have some personal experience with how Baesler is feeling this morning. Several years ago, I was also arrested for driving under the influence. The hangover I had the next morning was nothing compared to the pain of shame and regret I felt.

There was no excuse for what I did. I had to take my lumps and move on.

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So will Baesler, with an extra dose of accountability coming because she is an elected official endowed with the public's trust. More than that, she is our state's top teacher, working a job almost exclusively focused on serving children.

The superintendent has been arrested once before while in office.

In 2015 she was taken into custody after her boyfriend at the time accused her of domestic violence. The charges were ultimately dropped amid conflicting witness statements and accusations. You can read the full police report, as well as my analysis of the situation, right here .

Baesler is on the ballot this cycle — I actually interviewed her earlier this week about her candidacy — and voters will have to calculate the events of last night into their decision on whether or not they want to give her another four-year term. She currently has no serious opposition for the NDGOP's endorsement, and there are no announced candidates for the office from the Democrats.

North Dakota voters have a history of being forgiving of this sort of thing. In the 2014 election cycle, I was the first to report on Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger's struggles with alcohol. He attended rehab during the campaign and returned from it to win a comfortable victory on the November ballot.

In 2017, Rauschenberger relapsed and was arrested for driving under the influence. His opponent in his 2018 re-election campaign, Kylie Oversen, used the dashcam video of his arrest in her campaign and went on to lose the race by more than 17 percentage points .

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I was happy to see that most North Dakotans were able to forgive Rauschenberger for his mistakes.

I hope that, if voters choose not to give Baesler another four years in office, it has more to do with her job performance than this incident.

As cynical as many are about politicians, we need to remember they're human beings too. Baesler made a grave mistake, and she will need to explain that to voters, but she also deserves a shot at redemption.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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