Mark Dayton acknowledges that there is no way to reassure the voters of Minnesota that he will not suffer another relapse in his alcoholism. Dayton recently disclosed that one such slip occurred toward the end of his U.S. Senate term. He asks that voters think about the question in the full context of his long career in public service and the long duration of his sobriety before the lapse.
In an email exchange on the subject, Dayton wrote: “Anyone involved in recovery knows that no one, regardless of length of sobriety, can guarantee its permanent continuation.”
I’ll publish his full response at the bottom of this post.
As you probably know, in late December, Dayton — who had acknowledged years earlier that he is a recovering alcoholic who had been through treatment at the Betty Ford Center in 1987 — disclosed that he has suffered from depression during his entire adulthood and has controlled that condition with medication since 1993. He also revealed that he had suffered a relapse from his recovery from alcoholism during the latter part of his term in the U.S. Senate.
I was away and MinnPost was on hiatus the week the news broke. As I’ve caught up, I’ve been struck by the fact Dayton seemingly wasn’t being asked this reasonable question: If you lapsed from sobriety under the stress of your Senate term, how should voters think about the possibility that you might slip again as governor?
So I put the question to Dayton and he graciously answered (full response below), although he did so without disclosing any new details about his relapse (how long it lasted, how much he drank, whether it was brought about any particular circumstances) that might help voters think through the chances that, under the likely stresses that the next governor will face, Dayton’s alcoholism might create problems.
Dayton still declines to provide any details about the nature or duration of his episode of drinking, although he called it “brief” and said it had no impact on any senatorial decisions he made. I pressed on a second email exchange, not for gory details but for information that a concerned voter might reasonably want to know. Dayton demurred, saying he has concluded “that no matter how much I disclose, there will always be some who want to know more, and who will criticize my supposed ‘unwillingness’ to satisfy them.” I’ll append that in full context below as well.
It’s worth acknowledging that no candidate for governor can give an ironclad guarantee that he or she will remain healthy and fully able for the length of a four-year term. But on the other hand, if a candidate had been treated for cancer, gone into remission, then had a recurrence of the cancer, it would not be unreasonable for voters to consider the question of the candidate’s future health.
Here is the full text of Dayton’s reply to my email:
“Your question is one that Minnesotans will be assessing in the months ahead, as they consider me for their Governor. Anyone involved in recovery knows that no one, regardless of length of sobriety, can guarantee its permanent continuation. I went through treatment in January 1987. My overall record in my recovery has been a very strong one. I’m not perfect, as I indicated with my disclosure. Since then, I faced my problem directly again by spending a week at Hazelton’s Renewal Center in February 2007, almost three years ago. I have not had an issue with alcohol thereafter.
“I hope that Minnesotans will consider my personal disclosures in the context of my 34 years of dedicated public service to our state and my candor about my personal conditions, which many other leaders have faced and led with successfully. In the coming months, voters will have many opportunities to see me, listen to me, and assess my performance during the demands of a very competitive statewide campaign. After that, they will decide about me, in comparison with the other candidates, as is prerogative in a democracy. I gladly submit myself to, and will accept, their decision.
“Best regards — Mark”
And here is what Dayton said on the second round about his unwillingness to provide a fuller description of his bout of drinking:
“What I have said, Eric, is that I slipped briefly in my recovery, late in my Senate term and after I had made the decision not to seek re-election. I have said that it did not affect any decisions I made, while I was in the Senate. I believe that further details are rightfully private.
“I have disclosed far more about my personal life and its challenges than most other public figures. I have done so upon my own initiative, because I believe people have the right to know about those matters, as they consider me for Governor.
“I have learned again in the past week that no matter how much I disclose, there will always be some who want to know more, and who will criticize my supposed ‘unwillingness’ to satisfy them. I believe that decision should ultimately be made by the people of Minnesota in the primary and general elections. My best regards — Mark”