That question is something the Daily Herald recently decided to confront, and their request to candidates to reveal any arrests is already bearing some interesting fruit.
While an arrest record might be seem to be per se relevant to a political candidate's credibility, I think the DH wrestled with that issue a bit, since an arrest just by itself obviously doesn't necessarily lead to a conviction. But sometimes it does, or it may lead to some admission of guilt, and the DH editorial board seemed to feel pretty strongly that such a record, if it exists for a candidate, is something the voters ought to know about.
Case in point: Rupam Davé, the Democratic candidate for Lake County Circuit Court Clerk (an office currently held by long-time Circuit Court Clerk Sally Coffelt) was revealed by the Daily Herald to have not just one or two, but THREE arrests for DUI. Davé offered a couple explanations for this, citing family issues and hardships, and asserted that if elected to office, she would make a point of trying to help others benefit by her mistakes. While that all sounds like the politically-wise position to take, she went a bit too far, it seems, and also asserted that the only three times she ever drank alcohol in the past 20 years just happened to be the same three times she got busted for DUI.
That story really strains the bounds of credibility. If I were Davé, I would think about trying to walk that one back, as no one with any brains is going to believe it.
Leaving aside her weak explanations for why she got arrested three times for DUI, another extremely serious issue is that one occurred while she was driving on a suspended license.
Just to ease your concerns, the Republican candidate, current Chief Deputy Circuit Court Clerk Keith Brin, told the DH he's never been arrested.
Other Lake County blogs and political blogs like Illinois Review are picking up on this story. As most of you probably know, Davé was appointed to fill the Democratic nominee slot vacated by Cythia Pruim Haran, who left the race citing personal/family reasons. I'm not sure if it's too late for Lake County Dem Chairman Terry Link to axe Davé and try to get yet another fill-in candidate, but if that's not an option, I think Link can kiss goodbye this chance to snap up a county-wide office. However, Link told the DH, hey it's over, it's been a few years, move on, there's nothing to see here. So maybe he really doesn't see an issue here. I guess overall, that would not surprise me.
UPDATED 9/11/12 10:00 am: What's the only thing worse than answering the "arrest question" with an affirmative response? Perhaps refusing to answer it altogether. This morning, the Daily Herald follows up its 'Quest for Arrests' with an article revealing that Democratic State Representative Rita Mayfield from the 60th Legislative District won't answer the DH's question of whether she was ever arrested. Her opponent, Jackie Burleson of Waukegan, told the DH he'd never been arrested.
Mayfield told the Herald, “I have an issue with the question itself. I don’t feel that question is fair to the people of my district.”
Sorry, it's not fair to the PEOPLE of your district? How is that not fair to let them know of anything in your past such as an arrest record?
Watching these politicians (all of whom are Democrats, so far, by the way) bob and weave over this question is really starting to be amusing.