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A week ago, the top Republican in the New York state Assembly, Brian M. Kolb, published a guest column in a local newspaper warning against the dangers of drunken driving, especially during the holidays, noting that “tragedy can be only one bad decision away.”
Kolb, 67, personally proved his point days later when he was arrested and charged with drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve.
Kolb, the Assembly’s Republican minority leader who represents a district outside Rochester, found himself offering a follow-up story of sorts on Wednesday, in the form of a statement admitting to his mistake.
“I fully recognize the severity of the situation and I am profoundly sorry,” Kolb said in the statement. “There is no excuse and no justification for what occurred Tuesday evening. I made the wrong decision, and it is one I deeply regret.”
Kolb was driving his state-issued 2018 GMC Acadia just in front of his home around 10:30 Tuesday night in the town of Victor, New York, about 15 miles southeast of Rochester, when he drove into a ditch, the Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson said.
Henderson said one of his deputies, called to the scene by a passerby, administered several field sobriety tests and then took Kolb to the county jail.
There, an alcohol breath test indicated that the assemblyman’s blood alcohol content was over 0.08%, the sheriff said. Kolb was charged with driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and released pending a future court appearance, the sheriff said, adding that no one was hurt and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.
Henderson, a Democrat elected into office, said he has long known Kolb and worked alongside him in public service. But, he added, the assemblyman would be treated like any other defendant in such cases.
“This is what we do for anyone in this situation,” he said. “He was treated like anybody else.”
Kolb, a 20-year veteran of the Assembly, and its minority leader since 2009, represents Ontario County and a portion of Seneca County.
He has been reelected nine times and had managed to avoid the corruption scandals that have engulfed many other Albany legislators. He sought to parlay that record into higher officer in 2018 when he briefly campaigned to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As a lawmaker, he helped push for legislation to crack down on drinking while driving with children as passengers.
One of Kolb’s Republican colleagues in the Assembly, Kieran Michael Lalor, used Twitter to call for Kolb to step down as minority leader.
“That he hasn’t done so already is a disgrace,” Lalor wrote on Twitter.
A spokesman for Kolb declined to elaborate on the statement or to comment on Lalor’s call for the legislator’s resignation as minority leader.
Kolb’s Dec. 24 column in the upstate Daily Messenger newspaper warned against drunken driving during the holidays, and it highlighted that December was National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.
“Many of our holiday traditions, especially our New Year’s Eve celebrations, involve indulging in spirits,” he wrote. “Done safely, and in moderation, these can be wonderful holiday experiences. However, tragedy can be only one bad decision away.”
He continued, “Do not operate a vehicle if your ability to do so is impaired,” adding, “Please consider the ramifications of impaired driving, especially as we prepare to close out 2019 and welcome in a new decade.”