CONWAY Democratic U.S. 2nd District congressional candidate Herb Rule said his August arrest on a driving-while-intoxicated charge isn't a distraction, adding he is innocent and will work to prove it.
Speaking Tuesday at an Arkansas Educational Television Network debate alongside Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, Libertarian candidate Chris Hayes and Green Party candidate Barbara Ward, Rule urged voters to watch the Fayetteville Police Department dashboard video of the traffic stop and his subsequent arrest and "judge for themselves."
"I think it speaks for itself," said Rule, who is slated to go to trial on the charge on Nov. 28. "I wasn't drunk and I wasn't guilty."
Griffin noted he hasn't commented on Rule's arrest "our the one before that," a reference to Rule's 2010 arrest on a similar charge. He was not convicted in that case.
Griffin then called some of Rule's statements to law enforcement in the video "troubling," saying he shouldn't have asked the officers if they didn't "have something better to do."
"I mean come on," Griffin said. "You don't talk to law enforcement that way. It's disrespectful... If you take that attitude to Washington, you're not going to get anything done."
Earlier in the debate, Rule criticized Griffin's brief tenure as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas — a knock that Griffin called "nonsense."
Rule accused Griffin of conspiring to push his predecessor, Bud Cummins, out of the office to clear the way for his own appointment. Cummins resigned in December 2006.
Rule also criticized Griffin for then resigning from the post in June 2007 while investigations into what happened were ongoing.
"He shouldn't have tried to kick his buddy out if he wasn't going to stand the heat of taking responsibility for it," Rule said.
Griffin dismissed the criticism, saying he chose to resign from the U.S. attorney position for a variety of considerations, including his wife's pregnancy.
"It's sad," Griffin said. "I heard this same sort of nonsense two years ago. I just want to point out I'm very proud I served the President of the United States ... I don't need a lecture on what's good for my family."
The four candidates fielded questions on a variety of topics, including how they would bring jobs to the region, whether the federal government should fund PBS and whether they favor a ballot measure that would legalize medicinal marijuana if passed.
On the latter, Hayes, Rule and Ward said they support at least some aspects of medicinal marijuana while Griffin said he does not.
"I think if you look at what's happened in some other states, there's a problem in terms of youth getting their hands on it," Griffin said. "And I would also say we have to remember marijuana is illegal under federal law. It's a federal crime to market in marijuana and to grow and transact with marijuana."
The debate airs tonight on AETN at 8 p.m. and repeats Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m.