A York County Councilman who was arrested Friday on a drunken driving charge apologized publicly Monday for any pain or "embarrassment" he's caused his family, his district, the council and God.
Meanwhile, York County Republicans are discussing what position to take regarding their councilman's fall.
Councilman Eric Winstead of York shared a brief statement before the Council's meeting Monday night in York.
Winstead, a chaplain for Hospice Care of South Carolina, also apologized to "my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. ... I've always said that any good you see in me is God. Any bad, that's all me."
Winstead said he's grateful no one was physically hurt by his actions and he won't comment further on it publicly.
"It's time for me to get back to the business of doing the work for the county that the York County constituents elected me to do."
No other council members made any comment about Winstead's arrest Friday on charges of a first-offense DUI and having an open container.
Early Friday, a York County Sheriff's deputy pulled Winstead over after noticing his car was swerving and had crossed the center line several times, according to an incident report.
Winstead told the deputy he had had a couple of beers and a bottle of Crown Royal that the deputy found empty in the passenger seat. Winstead's blood alcohol level was a .11, .03 over the legal limit.
After he was released Friday afternoon, Winstead said the loss of his father in January had triggered the urge to drink a few times this year, and he hadn't had any alcohol for 16 years before his father's death,.
The York County Republican Party's executive committee will discuss at its January meeting the party's stance on Winstead's DUI charge and whether he should continue serving his district, party chairman Glenn McCall said Monday.
But already, "strong voices" are arguing whether the party should or shouldn't push for the first-term councilman's resignation.
'A sign of humility'
DeAnn Harris, party president for a precinct in York, said Monday afternoon that she believes stepping down is the right thing to do. As a born-again Christian, she views Winstead's situation not from a political viewpoint, but from a spiritual one.
For Harris, whether she can trust Winstead in a leadership role right now is a question because there's something wrong that needs to be dealt with, she said.
It's not about admitting failure, she said: "It's about being humble. Stepping back from a leadership position is a sign of humility."
Kevin Smith, a Fort Mill Republican who pushed early for a former York County Council member's resignation after he was arrested for DUI in 2008, was undecided Monday about what he thinks Winstead should do.
Smith said he'd be looking for Winstead's contrition and humility, which he said former Councilman Paul Lindemann lacked.
Last week, Lindemann was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and more than $300,000 in restitution for grossly inflating his income on a home mortgage application. Lindemann's sentencing provided some closure for voters, and now they have to deal with Winstead, Smith said.
"The citizens are just worn out from this stuff," he said. "There are so many things to address that are affecting people out of work. ... We just don't need to be addressing a councilman out there drinking and driving, and at this point, I don't know if his nose is up at the law."
Winstead's record - or any official's success in office - shouldn't be used as a reason to stay on, Smith said.
It's bad enough when citizens who "don't carry public trust" drink and drive, Smith said, but in Winstead's case, it's "an elected official and pastor to boot."
Smith said the precinct leaders in Winstead's district need to come together, assess the situation and report to the party. Then, the party needs to make a decision about whether it will continue to support Winstead. Smith said the GOP is the "party of accountability" and needs to take responsibility for the officials it helps win elections.
Voters deserve a clear message from the party, and elected officials need the same, he said.
"I know these folks think it's unfair for them to be under the magnifying glass, but that's just tough. ... They're not entitled to any special privileges. That's why it's called service."
Expressing similar concerns, York County Democratic Party Chairman Richards McCrae called for Winstead's resignation early Monday.
McCrae said Winstead's success as a councilman "doesn't make a difference. ... You're still talking about a grown man who made the conscious decision to go out, buy liquor, to drink, and then get behind the wheel of a car. This clearly indicates that this is a man who has extremely poor judgment," McCrae said.
"When you're a public figure like Winstead, there has to be a penalty that you pay," he said.
A second chance
Some believe that Winstead's clean record means he'll likely bounce back from the offense and not make the same mistake twice.
As long as Winstead apologizes to constituents, seeks counseling and doesn't have a repeat, Diane Carr, the county's GOP vice-chairwoman, will continue her support.
John Hunter, a long-time party member and retired school teacher living in York, said Winstead should be given an opportunity to learn from his mistakes.
"He should repent, get forgiven from the Lord and then get right with his family and continue to serve humbly without getting any more involved in alcohol," he said Monday.
"I think that he ought to carry on as though nothing ever happened," said Frank Duncan, a Republican Party member who lives in Winstead's district.
Duncan called the people condemning Winstead "hypocrites," adding that they may have had DUIs in their past or may have been eligible for one after drinking and driving.
"If he had a tradition of this kind of behavior I would be on him like a fly on honey," he said. "He made a mistake. Everybody's capable of making one. Let him without sin cast the first stone."
Video of Winstead's apology: