Oregon state Senate candidate Melissa Busch was stopped by police 16 years ago driving the wrong way down a road with a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit.
Busch, a home health nurse from Warren, is now the Democratic nominee in the hotly contested 16th Senate District race on the northwest coast.
In an email to the Capital Chronicle, Busch said she made a mistake and was held accountable for her actions 16 years ago. She added that she was grateful that she had a chance to complete a diversion program and get her life back on track.
“Fortunately, I was given a second chance and made the most of it by becoming a nurse, doing good, giving back and advocating for families in need,” she said. “I hope my story demonstrates to others that you don’t have to be defined by your worst mistakes if you work hard to better yourself.”
A March 2006 Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office report obtained by the Capital Chronicle describes Busch’s arrest with a blood alcohol content of 0.19 – more than twice the legal limit of 0.08. She had the charges dismissed in 2007 after completing a diversion program that included paying roughly $400 in fees and attending a meeting where victims of drunken driving described the impact it had on their lives.
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Callers had reported an older red pickup truck driving north in a southbound lane of Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard in Portland. A Portland police officer, James Fleming, found a stranded truck matching that description in a southbound lane nearly 2 miles from where the wrong-way driver was originally reported.
Busch and her then-boyfriend, Brian Valencia-Manerini, were standing on the sidewalk next to the truck, which had a flat right front tire. Fleming noted that Valencia-Manerini was visibly intoxicated, while Busch explained that she had been driving and they couldn’t get through to AAA to fix the flat.
“I asked Busch if AAA wasn’t answering the phone, and she just repeated that they had a flat and couldn’t get through to AAA,” the report said. “I asked if her phone worked, and she repeated that they had a flat and couldn’t get through to AAA. I was beginning to suspect that Busch (who had already identified herself as the driver) was also intoxicated.”
She said she didn’t know how they got the flat tire, but it had gouge marks consistent with hitting a curb. Busch said later that she had made a U-turn. A 3-foot-tall median meant she must have been driving north in the southbound lane to make the turn, according to the report.
Busch initially said she had a single glass of wine after working a serving shift downtown, according to the report. After failing three field sobriety tests, she added that she had also had a whiskey and soda.
She told Fleming that she was “not 100% sober,” but thought she should have been driving, according to the report.
Busch, who moved to Warren from Portland in 2018, racked up eight other tickets in Multnomah County between 2000 and 2018, court records show. Most were parking violations, but she was also cited in 2018 for using a cell phone while driving.
Her Republican opponent, Rep. Suzanne Weber of Tillamook, also received three tickets for Multnomah County parking meter violations between 2012 and 2016 and was cited for speeding in Washington County in 1991.
This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.