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Nick Ayers, Pawlenty's new campaign manager, was charged with drunk driving in 2006

At this point, you've got to wonder if Tim Pawlenty has a thing for guys who drink and drive.

Less than a week after his Iowa staffer Ben Foster attempted to break into an unsuspecting Iowa family's home, puked on the lawn, and then played coy about how he got there and why his car was parked nearby, Pawlenty announced the hire of another young Turk with a history of drunk driving: his new campaign manager, 28-year-old Nick Ayers.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ayers was pulled over by the Georgia State Patrol on October 25, 2006 after a cop caught him weaving between lanes doing 50 in a 35 mph zone.

Nick Ayers' citation for drinking and driving.
Nick Ayers' citation for drinking and driving.

When Trooper J.W. Rickett followed the Chevy Tahoe into a parking lot, Ayers sped up, nearly hitting another vehicle.

"It appeared as if the Tahoe was attempting to hide," Rickett later reported.

When he interviewed Ayers, the young political candidate reeked of alcohol, Rickett wrote in his report. Ayers told the trooper he had drunk "a strong Jack [Daniels] and Coke."

Ayers failed a field sobriety test, then repeatedly refused to take a breath test.

Six months later, after his candidate had won reelection, the charges against Ayers were reduced to reckless driving.

In a Washington Post profile last year, Ayers tried to finesse the incident:

"According to Ayers, the officer asked him if he had been drinking, and he copped to a single Jack and Coke. They asked him to stand on one leg, then the other. He complied, but he refused to take a Breathalyzer test, arguing that he had sufficiently demonstrated his sobriety. In Georgia, such a refusal prompts a mandatory arrest. Six months later, a judge threw out the DUI charge."

That doesn't exactly square with the Journal Constitution's account of him failing the field sobriety test.

Interestingly, the next quote in the Post's April 2010 profile comes from none other than Tim Pawlenty:

Is Tim Pawlenty soft on DWI?
Is Tim Pawlenty soft on DWI?

"He's got more wisdom and discernment and insight than most people two or three times his age," Pawlenty told the Post.

City Pages attempted to reach Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant by phone, email and text message yesterday seeking comment for this story, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

Ayers may well be a shrewd strategist who can help a Pawlenty campaign that has so far failed to capture the public imagination. But in light of the recent Ben Foster incident, Ayers' hire raises serious questions about how seriously Pawlenty takes the issue of drunk driving.

Remember that after initially telling Iowa police he had driven drunk, Foster later changed his story, claiming to have taken a taxi. He was unable to explain to police how his car came to be parked down the street.

When that saga hit the newswires, Pawlenty gave Foster a slap on the wrist -- a mere two-week suspension for putting other motorists' lives at risk.

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