Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 – 4:32 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 – 7:55 am

The arrest of Ben Hueso, a Democratic state senator from San Diego, on suspicion of drunken driving very early one morning was not a particularly unusual event.

Every year or two, one of the Legislature’s 120 members is nailed for tipsy driving, usually in the vicinity of the Capitol.

That’s roughly in line with California’s overall rate of about 172,000 drunken driving arrests among the state’s 24.6 million licensed drivers each year. And in a way, it’s surprising that the number isn’t higher.

The Legislature’s history has always been intertwined with liquor. Indeed, its very first session in San Jose 164 years ago was dubbed the “Legislature of a Thousand Drinks” because a state senator from Sacramento who hoped to become commandant of the state militia, Thomas Green, closed every session with an invitation: “Let’s have a drink! Let’s have a thousand drinks!”

Infamous liquor lobbyist Artie Samish maintained a 24/7 open house with plenty of food and liquor in his Senator Hotel suite across L Street from the Capitol during the 1940s and 1950s.

Capitol lore is replete with deals lubricated with booze, and with drunken confrontations inside the Capitol.

In his memoir of the hard-partying Jesse Unruh era in the 1960s, “A Disorderly House,” former Sen. James Mills titles one chapter, “Wine, Women and Politicians.”

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