- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger announced Thursday that he’ll take an unpaid leave of absence to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.

“I believe my prognosis is good and I expect to be back at work and on the campaign trail in just a few weeks,” Rauschenberger said in a statement.

Rauschenberger, who did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press on Thursday, revealed his bout with alcohol addiction to a conservative blogger and in a statement on Wednesday.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed the 31-year-old to the post in November by to serve the remainder of the term held by Cory Fong and is running for the permanent commissioner seat. He received the state Republican Party’s endorsement in April.

Rauschenberger’s vehicle was involved in a rollover crash in Mandan on Tuesday, and the vehicle’s driver, 22-year-old Jesse Larson, was cited for drunken driving and reckless driving. Rauschenberger was not in the vehicle. Rauschenberger said he “showed poor judgment” and had a “relapse” when he lent his vehicle to Larson, whom Rauschenberger met Larson while undergoing alcohol addiction treatment in Bismarck.

The Bismarck Tribune reported Thursday on police records showing that hours earlier, Rauschenberger was cited for failure to exercise care required after he collided with a vehicle stopped in traffic, which caused it to strike a third vehicle and he was fined $30. No one was injured.

Rauschenberger, a certified public accountant who’s single and has no children, is the son of Ron Rauschenberger, Dalrymple’s chief of staff.

Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said the governor was made aware of Rauschenberger’s alcohol addiction in late July.

“Everyone will know more once he completes treatment. He will be able to prove then if he is able to handle his responsibilities or not,” Zent said.

North Dakota’s tax commissioner is paid more than $105,000 annually. The agency that collects an assortment of state taxes has 134 employees and a two-year budget of $57 million.

State GOP chairman Robert Harms said the party supports Rauschenberger.

“He is an incredibly talented and capable individual who, like many of us, must face the challenges life sometimes gives us,” Harms said.

Democratic candidate Jason Astrup told the AP that it’s not appropriate to pass judgment on Rauschenberger.

“I think everyone knows someone who has struggled with addiction,” the 35-year-old Fargo attorney said. “I hope he gets the treatment he needs and will move on.”

Bob Valeu, North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party chairman, said in a statement Thursday the party hopes Rauschenberger overcomes his challenge. But Valeu also said Rauschenberger is a public figure and North Dakotans deserve answers to several questions, including why he wasn’t at work Tuesday, how much time he has missed, his impact on the office and who’s in charge of the office in his absence.

“There were already many unanswered questions yesterday. Today’s surprise decision by Rauschenberger to take a leave of absence, along with new information of his involvement in a traffic accident earlier on Tuesday morning, only raises more troubling questions,” Valeu wrote.

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