- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014
Minnesota lawmaker pleaded guilty to DWI in Aug.

ELK RIVER, Minn. (AP) - A freshman Minnesota lawmaker from Elk River apologized Thursday and said he made “an error in judgment” when he was arrested for DWI in August.

Republican state Rep. Nick Zerwas pleaded guilty on Aug. 21 to one count of fourth-degree DWI, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1rXllFM) reported.

Zerwas was arrested driving 80 mph on Interstate 94 in Maple Grove on Aug. 2. He failed field sobriety tests, and a preliminary breath test registered a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12 percent, which is over the legal limit of 0.08 percent

Zerwas, 34, said he was driving home after visiting college friends in the Twin Cities and drinking with them at a private residence. After his arrest, he said, he was detained at the New Hope Police Department until a family member picked him up.

“I made an error in judgment,” Zerwas told the Star Tribune. “It was a huge mistake, and very embarrassing, and certainly not something I ever plan on doing again.” He apologized to his constituents in the newspaper interview.

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Minnesota GOP mailer jabs DFL on drunk driving law

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Safe driving advocates and Democrats are crying foul over a GOP campaign mailing that portrays Democrats as soft on drunken driving.

The fliers were sent to residents in a number of legislative districts where Democrats, including Rep. Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake and Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville, are facing Republicans in competitive races. The mailers claim Democrats are responsible for passing a law that weakened penalties for drunk drivers.

The law allows drivers with DWI convictions to retain driving privileges if they agree to pay for ignition interlock systems that require them to test their blood alcohol level before operating their vehicles, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1tTeWRKhttps://bit.ly/1tTeWRK ) reported. The car will not turn on if the system detects alcohol on the driver’s breath.

The law passed this year with bipartisan support.

Minnesota highways are safer because of the law, according to both Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Minnesotans for Safe Driving.

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Leading voice on agriculture fights to keep job

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - For the first time in two decades, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson finds himself fighting hard to keep his job and avert a loss that could cost Minnesota one of Congress’ most influential voices on farm matters.

Peterson, the ranking minority member and former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has represented western Minnesota’s 7th District for nearly 24 years. He hasn’t had a close finish since 1994. Republicans saw an opportunity, though, because it’s one of nine congressional districts held by Democrats that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried two years ago. Peterson himself points out that the 7th is also the third-most-Republican district held by a Democrat.

“Having me at the top of the committee as one of the main players at the table is an important thing for the third-biggest agricultural district in the country,” Peterson said Thursday from his home in Detroit Lakes.

But his Republican challenger, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, said Peterson’s support for the policies of President Barack Obama and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi are costing western Minnesota, which he said isn’t benefiting from how Peterson uses his seniority.

“I will not apologize for not being a D.C. insider,” Westrom said while riding from Alexandria to another event in Sauk Centre.

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Group of medical pot backers criticizes Dayton

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Advocates of expanding Minnesota’s new medical marijuana program to allow more people to qualify say they have the support of every gubernatorial candidate except incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton.

Members of Minnesotans for Compassionate care said Thursday all of Dayton’s rivals signed statements pledging to reshape the program so it would cover 38,000 people instead of the estimated 5,000. The law passed last spring restricts the drug’s delivery to pill, oil or vaporized forms and limits what ailments qualify for legal use. The program won’t get off the ground until 2015.

Republican Jeff Johnson, the Independence Party’s Hannah Nicollet, Libertarian Chris Holbrook and the Grassroots Party’s Chris Wright say they’d be willing to go further.

Dayton says he isn’t signing any pre-election pledges but won’t rule out an eventual expansion.

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