A political advertisement that refers to Rep. Bunky Loucks’ 2008 drunken driving arrest began playing on a Casper radio station this week, drawing criticism from the Republican legislator and his Democratic challenger.
The 30-second spot, paid for by a political action committee that targets far-right Republicans, knocks Loucks for supporting ultrasounds for women seeking abortions while opposing legislation that made it a crime to refuse blood alcohol tests.
“Maybe that’s because Bunky has never been pregnant,” a man says in the advertisement. “But he has been arrested for drunk driving and convicted of resisting arrest. Bunky’s votes are all about Bunky.”
Loucks is running for a second term in House District 59, which includes Mills and parts of Casper. His opponent is Mike Gilmore, the Democrat who held the seat before him.
The DUI advertisement, and a second that criticized Loucks for missed votes, began playing Monday on KTWO Radio. They provoked a strong reaction from both candidates.
“I think it’s terrible,” Loucks said Tuesday. “It’s a personal attack, trying to smear me.”
Although the political action committee Citizens for a Better Wyoming bought the advertisement, Loucks suspects Gilmore’s involvement, despite denials from both the group and his opponent.
“I don’t know what to say,” Loucks said. “Mike knows the truth. God knows the truth.”
Gilmore said he only learned of the advertisement Monday after he received an angry phone call. He spoke with someone from the station Tuesday and was told a PAC was behind the radio spots.
The Democrat insisted he didn’t know anything about the advertisements before they began playing. He’d like them stopped but was told that’s not an option, since they were paid for by a third party.
Gilmore worried the negative ads would hurt him by angering voters.
“I was looking for an honest and fair fight,” he said. “And it’s still a fair fight. The truth is, what they said about Bunky is factual. But no way would I ever put that on the radio.”
Gilmore said he learned about Loucks’ DUI arrest through an anonymous letter he received during the 2010 campaign. He never used the information.
“It’s not the way I do politics,” he said. “But there are people out there who I have no control over who thought it needed to get out.”
KTWO General Manager Bob Price confirmed he spoke Tuesday with Gilmore. During the conversation, Gilmore indicated he didn’t agree with the PAC’s approach, Price said.
“We could not edit what the PAC had to say,” Price said. “The PAC is fully within its rights to say what it wanted to say.”
Casper police arrested Loucks for drunken driving and interference in December 2008 – nearly two years before he won office in a Republican sweep of Natrona County legislative races.
He pleaded guilty to both charges in 2009, but was only convicted of interference. He received a deferred prosecution on the DUI charge, which was dismissed in 2010 after he completed probation, according to Natrona County Circuit Court records.
The advertisement doesn’t mention the DUI charge’s dismissal, and misstates the interference charge as “resisting arrest.”
Citizens for a Better Wyoming intended for the ad to highlight Loucks’ inconsistent voting record, said E. Jayne Mockler, the group’s chairwoman and a former Democratic legislator from Cheyenne. She questioned why Loucks supported legislation that would have required doctors to offer women an unnecessary medical procedure but opposed more intrusive DUI laws.
“If you run as a limited government candidate, we expect you to be consistent,” she said.
Mockler said the PAC was supporting moderate Democrats and Republicans in races against extreme conservatives. During the Republican primary for Senate District 30, it paid for advertisements supporting Sen. Charlie Scott, a moderate, against the more conservative Bob Brechtel. Scott won by a narrow margin.
The group did not coordinate with Gilmore before running the advertisement, Mockler said. She doesn’t expect the advertisements will hurt him, despite the candidate’s own concerns.
“We would like, as we go forward, to show more races where there is a glaring inconsistency,” she said. “You have to defend your record and be accountable for it.”
Loucks complained it was unfair to tie his arrest to his opposition to the DUI bill. He said he opposed the DUI legislation because it allowed authorities to forcibly take body fluids from suspects. He called ultrasounds before abortion information, rather than an intrusion.
After hearing about the advertisements, Loucks began seeking donations to pay for his own spots. They won’t be negative, he said.
Gilmore has his own radio ads that are slated to begin this week. He said in light of the controversy, he changed the tagline at the end.
“I’m Mike Gilmore,” he now says, “and this is the only ad that I’ve approved.”