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Brad Johnson

HELENA - Brad Johnson, a former Montana secretary of state and a Republican candidate for Public Service Commission in District 5, has been charged with drunken driving after he was stopped last week on U.S. Highway 12 east of Helena.

Johnson confirmed Wednesday that he was arrested last Thursday evening by a Broadwater County sheriff's deputy and charged with drunken driving. He said he posted bond that evening and then was driven to his East Helena home by a friend.

Johnson, 59, said he's convinced he was not in violation of Montana's DUI law, although a Breathalyzer test showed his blood-alcohol content at 0.24 percent - three times the legal limit for drunken driving.

"The thing that has really come out of this experience for me is that I think it's incredibly stupid to have so much as a sip of alcohol and get behind the wheel," he said. "I'll never let it happen again."

Broadwater County sheriff's officials referred questions to Sheriff Brenda Ludwig, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Johnson served as Montana's secretary of state from 2005-2008, losing a re-election effort in 2008 to Democrat Linda McCulloch.

He's currently running for the PSC in District 5, which includes Helena, Kalispell, Polson and three other northwest Montana counties along Rocky Mountain Front.

Johnson is opposed in the Republican primary election by Helena attorney Bill Gallagher. The winner of the June 8 primary will take on incumbent Democratic Commissioner Ken Toole of Helena.

The five-member commission regulates utilities in Montana.

Johnson said he hoped voters could look beyond his drunken-driving arrest and consider the good work he's done for the public.

"I'm a human being; I made a mistake," he said. "I don't believe I violated the law, but I still made a mistake. I hope that doesn't negate all of the service that I've made for the people of Montana over the years. I still want to be able to serve the people of Montana, and will be a stronger person for this painful experience."

Johnson said he had gone to Bozeman last Thursday to visit friends. After having drinks at a private home, Johnson said he and other members of his party went to another house and did some dancing, but didn't continue drinking there.

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