JEFFERSON CITY — A former Missouri legislator arrested for drunken driving offered Sen. Chuck Graham words of wisdom after Graham was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Former Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington, was arrested in April of 2002 and again in September 2002 for driving while intoxicated After the arrests, Burcham decided against running for re-election.
“Alcoholism ended my political career,” Burcham said Monday.
Graham was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after, according to the police report, he rear-ended a vehicle in an accident near his home Saturday night.
Despite the cutthroat atmosphere in politics, Burcham said he thinks Graham will have no problem getting support from his fellow senators.
“I have no doubt that the folks that are in the state Senate and the folks that are in General Assembly as a whole will be personally supportive to Sen. Graham, and they should be.”
But Burcham warned that Graham could face political heat.
“When I was in the legislature, the Democrats wanted to take advantage of my falls, and I would expect the Republicans to want to take advantage of Chuck Graham’s falls. ... It’s the way we hold each other accountable,” Burcham said.
Burcham served in the legislature one term of two years, from 2001 to 2002; Graham was serving in the House at the time.
The Senate’s majority leader, Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, referred to bipartisan support among legislators.
“We are a family whether we are Democrat or Republican, and we are supportive of each other,” she said.
But the St. Louis Democrat did not rule out the possibility of political consequences for the Senate’s assistant Democrat leader.
“We will stand by the decisions that he makes, and hopefully this works out in his favor,” Coleman said. “At this time I think it’s premature to expect Sen. Graham’s leadership position to be in danger. He has not been found guilty of anything, and I believe that this is a legal process that should be handled by the legal system.”
Coleman, who makes committee assignments for Senate Democrats, said she would remove a member only if the member requested removal or if the entire Democratic Caucus raised the issue.
Sen, Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, agreed that it was premature to discuss any repercussions.
“If he has a problem, I hope he’s able to deal with it, get some help for it and get it corrected,” Nodler said.
However, Nodler did talk about political possibilities.
“To some extent, it’s up to the people of ... that district to determine what their values and expectations are of their elected officials. And that may vary from one part of the state to another. So that’s kind of up to the folks in Columbia to determine.”
Graham’s term ends in 2008. While he has not announced officially that he will seek re-election, his October financial disclosure report indicated he had raised more than $27,000. Contributors to his campaign include Anheuser Busch and Supporters of Health Research. Click here to Graham's full list of campaign contributors.
Graham was unavailable for comment Monday.
He is the second Democratic senator to face misdemeanor charges this year. Last month, Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, was charged with using a false ID to enter the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville.
Graham was paralyzed below the waist from a car accident when he was 16 years old — an injury to which he has referred when debating in support of stem cell research and was profiled in the New York Times in August 2007 in an article about the stem cell research debate in Missouri.