Guest Column

Dave Min, 47th District

Member, California State Senate

A mistake that will never happen again

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State Senator Dave Min

Just over nine months ago, I made the worst mistake of my life. I decided to get behind the wheel of a car after having been drinking earlier in the night. And as you probably know, I was pulled over, arrested, and charged with driving under the influence.

I’m sorry. I know I made a reckless and stupid decision that night, and I also know I let so many people down, including my family. I screwed up. Big time.

But I also want to correct the record, because the attack ads flooding the TV screens and mailboxes of people who live in the 47th Congressional District are distorting this incident for political purposes.

First, I have never had any prior issues with alcohol or with law enforcement, other than a few traffic tickets. I’m an Eagle Scout, a father of three young kids, and former federal prosecutor. My young adult years in college, law school and for the first part of my career were spent in East Coast cities like Philadelphia and Boston where I didn’t need, or have, a car. When I relocated back to California, where I’d grown up, I was the father of an infant, and we had two more kids shortly after that. Drinking any amount of alcohol and driving was just not part of my life history until last year’s incident.

Second, I did not try to dispute the charges or get out of them. To the contrary, I accepted full responsibility and thanked the officers for doing their job. Having never been in this situation before, I had questions about the process, but as the officers noted in their report, I was cooperative and respectful, and I did not mention my role as a State Senator until after they had identified me as such.

Third, I immediately owned up to the incident, accepted full responsibility for it, and apologized as soon as I was able to the next day, in a public statement that was widely covered by the media. And you don’t need to just take my word for this. As the Los Angeles Times’ Editorial Board has described, “Min never treated [the DUI as a trivial incident]. He immediately made a straightforward public statement about his arrest and apologized. He didn’t try to make excuses or pretend that the arrest was unfair, overblown, or an attack on liberalism…More politicians who err badly should follow his example.”

This has been a sobering experience for me, literally and metaphorically. The worst and most embarrassing mistake of my life was amplified all over the news media and by political rivals. I know I have let so many people down.

But this mistake was not characteristic of who I am or what I have done with my life. I have served the public throughout my career, turning down higher paying jobs to try to make this country, and our community, better. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2002, I went to work at the Securities and Exchange Commission because I wanted to crack down on corporate fraud after the Enron and Worldcom accounting scandals. I went on to serve as an economic policy advisor for Senator Schumer before coming back home to California to teach at what was then a brand new law school at UC Irvine that Erwin Chemerinsky had started. My wife Jane is still a full-time law professor there and directs the Domestic Violence Clinic, which has helped hundreds of survivors of abuse get the legal remedies they need.

A decade ago, going into politics was the furthest thing from my mind. Jane and I had dream jobs teaching at a top-tier law school and training the next generation of legal advocates. I had testified six times before Congress and my research had been cited in national media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post. And we were so excited to raise our family here in Irvine and watch our kids grow up.

But I believe this country needs massive change. We need to restore economic opportunity, address massive generational challenges like climate change and gun violence, and we need to strengthen our democratic institutions and the rule of law, even as we are facing a growing movement of insurrectionists and white nationalists in this country. And at some point, I realized that I could be the change I wanted to see. And that is why I entered the political arena, flipping a seat from a well-established incumbent and winning my State Senate seat in 2020.

I have not been a politician for very long, but I do believe that at a time when public trust in our government is waning, we must stand up and model transparency, honesty and integrity. Whether or not you agree with me, I believe I have governed with the same values and priorities that I campaigned on. I have kept my promises. And my office and I have tried our best to be accessible, even to those who disagree with me and my legislative actions.

I have lived a very fortunate and blessed life, and as the son of Korean immigrants, I know I owe everything I have to this place and this set of ideals we call America. But I have also tried to live an honorable and good life, giving back to this country through public service and good works through my career.

And I hope that you will judge me by the totality of my life and actions, not just on the basis of my worst moment.

I am proud of the fact that even after my DUI, so many major organizations that I respect entrusted me with their formal support. The California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, the Los Angeles Times, Sierra Club, the California Teachers Association and Equality California are just a few of the many groups that have endorsed me following that incident.

I am also honored to be the only candidate in this race backed by law enforcement, including the endorsements of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Officers Research Association of California, which collectively represent peace officers in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Seal Beach and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

And I am so grateful to the 150+ federal, state and local government leaders who have placed their trust in my campaign, including the incumbent who currently holds this seat, Congresswoman Katie Porter, as well as local elected officials from all of the cities in this area.

Those who know me or have interacted with me will attest to my honesty and integrity. As your State Senator, I have tried to model these same values. I am so deeply sorry for letting you down, but I promise you I will never make a mistake like this again.

(Sen. Dave Min was elected to office in 2020 and is presently running for re-election.)


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