While we don’t yet have all the information about what caused state Rep. Sean Flaherty, D-Scarborough, to roll his vehicle in Freeport last weekend, we know enough to question his judgment.

Reportedly on his way home from a Central Maine wedding, the 25-year-old state representative was involved in a single-car accident on Interstate 295 at 2 a.m. Sunday, indicating that, at least, he was driving too fast.

Police suspect something much worse, and have charged him with operating under the influence of alcohol based on their observations of his behavior after the crash.

That is not, on its own, proof of guilt, and like any criminal defendant Flaherty is entitled to a day in court, where he can put the state’s evidence to the test.

But that is not what has people all over Maine talking this week. The more pressing question is whether Flaherty should stand for re-election on Nov. 2, or if he should withdraw from the race while there is still time to remove his name from the ballot.

It’s not a minor issue. Serving in elective office is not just a difficult job but also provides members with a distinction that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. There are more than enough law-abiding citizens to fill the Legislature’s seats that people who break the law — risking their lives and the lives of others — do not need to serve.

If this crash had occurred a month ago, there would have been time for Flaherty to step aside and be replaced on the ballot with another member of his party. But now, Flaherty’s withdrawal would mean that voters would not have a choice in November.

Flaherty should not take that choice away from his constituents.

The candidate’s character is an important consideration for voters to weigh, and in many elections it is the deciding factor. But it is not the only one, and voters should be looking at a wide variety of issues when they cast their ballots.

Flaherty should stay in the race, even though he may be guilty of a serious offense.

The voters of his district have the right to decide how serious it is when compared with the other issues important to them. Flaherty should not deprive them of that opportunity and take away voters’ right to choose.


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