State House candidate charged with DUI
PANAMA CITY - A state House candidate was arrested and charged with driving under the influence last month but says he plans to stay in the race, despite the "great embarrassment."
Tho Bishop, 24, was pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol at 11:32 p.m. on Dec. 27 while driving on Laurie Avenue and booked into the Bay County Jail, according to law enforcement records. He received a DUI uniform traffic citation and refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, which results in a one-year automatic loss of license.
The Panama City Beach Republican is running for state House District 6 this year, which includes most of Bay County. The district is represented currently by the term-limited state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City.
Bishop said Tuesday he would not speak about the case and had a lawyer handling it for him. He said he was "contesting the charges."
Despite a possible trial and sentence looming over his head, Bishop said he was staying in the race because he saw no other strong candidates who could represent the county and make a difference.
"If I thought that there was someone in this race who could do the job that I think Florida needs, that I think Bay County needs, I'd be glad to step out, but I don't," he said, "so I'm going to fight on."
Bishop said he can't change what happened, but he would if he could. He said the arrest doesn't alter who he is or why he's running.
"It's a very difficult personal thing. It's a great embarrassment," he said.
Bishop, who touts libertarian economists Frédéric Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises as his influences, said he took the "constitutional" approach by refusing to cooperate with law enforcement after he was arrested. He said U.S. citizens have the right to have a lawyer present to advise them and not say anything self-incriminating.
Bishop has not been a fundraising force since he entered the race in July, taking in just $2,750 in donations so far. He came back to the county to enter the race after working in Washington, D.C., as a U.S. House Finance Committee staffer. He said he never gave up his Bay County residency.
Once the case wraps up, Bishop said he could talk about it, but for now, he'll stay in.
"I'll continue on with the race," he said.