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Port: Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger should step down and focus on health

North Dakota voters have given Rauschenberger two chances to get sober after past incidents, and that's to their credit. Politics can be unforgiving. It was refreshing to see someone get a second chance despite addiction problems. Our society has been making a lot of progress toward not demonizing addiction, and Rauschenberger's ability to stay in office while fighting alcoholism has been a testament to that. But enough is enough.

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North DakotaTax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger, left, visits with Rep. Todd Porter during an election-watch party Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at the Elks Lodge in Bismarck. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — In 2014, I was tipped off to the fact that a vehicle registered to Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger had been involved in an alcohol-related accident.

I got hold of Ryan by phone the same day as the incident. As the story unfolded, it turned out he had been day drinking with another person and loaned out his car so this person could go buy some cigarettes.

After the story broke, Rauschenberger, who was facing a re-election campaign that year, took a leave of absence from his state duties to seek treatment. He came back and easily won re-election.

In 2018, Rauschenberger was again up for re-election and again ran into problems with alcohol. He was stopped for DUI, and ultimately found guilty. Again, he found treatment. Again, he won re-election, even with his Democratic challenger, Kylie Oversen, running attack ads targeting his addiction problems .

Next year Rauschenberger is again up for re-election, and while it's not clear if he's running or not -- he told me in July he wasn't ruling it out -- he's back in the headlines .

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According to the Bismarck Tribune , Rauschenberger was taken into custody by the Bismarck Police Department after being found passed out in a hotel room. According to the Tribune report, which cites information from law enforcement, Rauschenberger had visited the hotel to check into a room. When he was told his room wasn't ready, he wandered into a room that was being cleaned and shut the door, refusing to answer calls from staff.

Police took him into custody, and his booking information from the Burleigh County Jail lists "detox" as the reason. According to the Tribune, Rauschenberger hasn't been charged with a crime. He was placed into custody because the responding officer couldn't find a sober person to take custody of him.

That situation will play out.

As far as Rauschenberger's political career is concerned, this has to be strike three.

Not as a punishment for the man who, by all accounts, is competent at his job outside of his personal struggles and, in person, is about as nice and helpful a human being as you're likely to meet.

But he clearly needs to get help.

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North Dakota voters have given Rauschenberger two chances after past incidents, and that's to their credit. Politics can be unforgiving. It was refreshing to see someone get a second chance.

But enough is enough.

The status quo clearly isn't helping Ryan. He needs to move aside so someone else can attend to his official duties, and so that he can try a different path to a healthy life.

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

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

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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