A candidate forum on healthy living in Wausau Wednesday highlighted Wisconsin's alcohol culture in a personal way for many of the participants.
The forum sponsored by Healthy Marathon County, drew several assembly candidates who spoke movingly of personal experiences. 85th district Republican Pat Snyder said alcohol changed his life in July of 2003, "I am an alcoholic. I wrecked my motorcycle, got a DUI, and then was in the hospital for the next two weeks with a broken arm and a broken leg."
Eighty-sixth district Democrat Dennis Halkoski spoke of his experience as a police officer, "I've had to wake parents up at 3:00 in the morning and tell them that their child was killed in an accident. I've had to pull people out of cars that I knew."
Eighty-seventh district Democrat Elizabeth Riley spoke of her experience as a nurse, "As somebody who has worked in emergency departments, I too have some really horrific stories to tell that involve drinking and driving."
Sixty-ninth district Democrat Paul Knopf spoke about drunk driving accidents he covered as a radio news director, "In New York, if you get caught with a DUI, you're the black sheep. In Wisconsin, you get a DUI and it's as if you joined the brotherhood."
Eighty-fifth district Democrat Mandy Wright pointed to her experience as a school teacher, "As a teacher, I see how impulsive kids are every day, and we don't need to be adding alcohol into the mix."
Eighty-fifth district Libertarian Jim Maas was alone in arguing for a more lenient attitude. Maas said if you're old enough to get married, you're old enough to drink, "They could be at their wedding reception and they can't have a glass of champagne even when their parents are present?"
The Republican candidates in the 69th, 86th and 87th Assembly Districts were invited to the forum, but did not attend.