It’s not often that an arrest for drunk driving helps a candidate’s narrative.
But these are not normal political times. And one, Ian Smith, of CD-3 in south-central Jersey is not your run of the mill candidate for Congress.
Smith’s appeal seems to be that the government is out to get him.
Recall that he became known two years ago when he refused to follow state pandemic regulations and close his business, Atilis Gym in Bellmawr. His defiance prompted a legal battle and also made him a hero of sorts to some Fox News TV hosts and by extension, the right wing of the Republican party.
Now, Smith is trying to ride his fame to the House of Representatives. His ultimate target is incumbent Democrat Andy Kim, but first he has to win the GOP primary where his chief opponent is Bob Healey Jr., a businessman who co-founded the Viking Group and Viking Yachts.
At the moment, actual campaign issues need to take a back seat.
As last Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, Smith was arrested and charged with DWI in Cinnaminson, Burlington County. He was also charged with four motor vehicle violations and of more relevance, refusing to take a breath test.
Which brings us to a central point of Smith’s narrative. His campaign said he didn’t trust the breathalyzer, because he doesn’t trust the government.
Here is what Smith himself tweeted:
“By now most of you have read about what happened during the early hours of Sunday morning. Due to the ongoing nature of the case, my statements will be limited to what has already been said. I was pulled over, passed a sobriety test (in poor conditions) and was arrested by the officer.
“My choice to not submit to a breathalyzer reflects my distrust after 2 years of persecution. I deeply appreciate everyone who has reached out and the support offered by friends, family and supporters around NJ and the country.”
As previously stated, this statement reinforces Smith’s narrative that the government is corrupt and not to be trusted.
At the same time, one needs to suspend a belief in logic to think a local police officer working the overnight shift is a secret agent of Phil Murphy’s security apparatus. Or is it the “deep state?”
Smith’s statement probably should not be dissected too closely, but how is he being “persecuted?” By keeping his business open he clearly violated state pandemic regulations.
A salient part of the case at hand is his admitted refusal to take a breath test. This is not a debatable point as anyone who has watched municipal court anywhere in New Jersey can tell you. Refusing to take a breath test carries the same penalties as drunk driving itself.
In a “real world” sense, a driver who is not intoxicated should jump at the chance to take the breath test. If the driver is under the limit, the breathalyzer will show it. As of now, Smith’s refusal very well could lead to a conviction even if he is able to show he was not under the influence when he was stopped.
If Smith was just a gym owner fighting the state, this incident would not be a big deal.
But he’s a candidate for Congress. And he has a history.
As has frequently been reported, Smith has a prior conviction for drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter stemming from a 2007 crash in Atlantic County that killed a 19-year-old.
Smith has not avoided his past.
In announcing his candidacy, he referenced the incident, saying, “There’s nothing I can do except try to live a good life and give back and promote as much love and positivity in the world as I can.”
The next chapter in this case is set for April 14 in Cinnaminson Municipal Court.