Government & Politics

Democrat running for Kansas House seat cited for drunken driving not once, but twice

Democrat Brandon Woodard of Lenexa defeated Republican Wendy Bingesser in Kansas’ 30th District. He becomes the first openly gay member of the state legislature.
Democrat Brandon Woodard of Lenexa defeated Republican Wendy Bingesser in Kansas’ 30th District. He becomes the first openly gay member of the state legislature.

The Lenexa Democrat running for the 30th District seat in the Kansas House was arrested on not one but two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Brandon Woodard, 28, previously acknowledged the first arrest during an interview with The Star last winter, when he announced his candidacy for the seat being vacated by Republican Randy Powell that includes parts of Lenexa and Olathe.

Lawrence police cited Woodard on that charge in 2012, when he was a 22-year-old senior at the University of Kansas. The KU student newspaper, the Daily Kansan, published an article about it at the time because Woodard was then vice president of the university’s student senate.

Court records show Woodard paid a fine and received diversion, which meant the charge was dismissed after six months of staying out of trouble but remained on his record.

“It taught me a lot about myself and about the justice system,” Woodard told The Star in February. “And I’ve been positively impacting the community ever since.”

During that interview, Woodard did not volunteer information about a subsequent 2014 conviction for operating under the influence, which until now has not been publicized. Nor did that conviction come up during the campaign leading up to his victory in the primary.

Neither has it been an issue during the general election campaign between Woodard and Republican Wendy Bingesser.

Documents concerning that second drunken driving charge, which were obtained by The Star, show that Lawrence police pulled Woodard over again in May 2014, citing him for operating under the influence and an improper lane change.

After initially pleading not guilty to both counts, Woodard changed his plea to guilty on the first charge and the lane-change violation was dismissed.

He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but served only five days, and was put on probation for two years.

That second arrest occurred a year after Woodard’s graduation. He was then working for the university as an alumni relations specialist and now works for the KU Endowment.

Reached Monday, Woodard said he was not trying to hide the second drunken driving arrest during that February interview, but felt under no obligation to volunteer the information.

“He (the reporter) asked if I was arrested in 2012 for DUI, and that came up because it was a story when I was student body vice president,” Woodard said. “He asked about that. I answered it.”

He said he would have answered truthfully had he been questioned specifically about the second arrest and has been truthful during the campaign with voters and the news media.

“If people ask questions, I’m going to be honest and respond to them,” he said. “I think it (questions about the second operating under influence conviction) coming up and me answering honestly means that, if elected, I’m going to be just as transparent in Topeka.”

Other than a minor traffic violation, Woodard said he hasn’t been charged with any subsequent crimes. If elected, he would be the first openly gay member of the legislature.

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