Politico reports that Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) will resign from Congress on Monday. Radel was busted for misdemeanor cocaine possession in an undercover sting operation in Washington, D.C. in November, pled guilty, and got one year on probation plus a $250 fine. He told the court he had “on several occasions purchased, possessed, and used cocaine.”
He then spent six weeks in rehab, despite calls from top Florida Republicans – including Governor Rick Scott and Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry to resign. “The people of Florida’s 19th Congressional District need a congressman who is 100 percent focused on the needs of Southwest Florida,” said Curry, shortly after news of Radel’s arrest broke. “Therefore, Congressman Radel should step down and focus his attention on rehabilitation and his family.”
Governor Scott concurred with Curry’s statement, saying “Trey is going through a tough time. My prayers and my wife’s prayers are with his family. But we have to hold all of our elected officials to the highest standards.”
From Radel’s district, the Collier County Republican Executive Committee also called on him to resign. “While the decision to complete the current term is his alone to make, we strongly encourage him to reflect on his ability to remain effective and that a return to Congress may serve only as an impediment to his recovery,” said a statement from chairman Mike Lyster. “We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately.”
Florida Democrats, naturally, were quick to call for Radel’s resignation, and they were a lot less gentle about it, with Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux declaring Radel’s conduct was “an embarrassment to his district and to the state of Florida.”
I also thought he should have resigned immediately, and was frankly surprised he decided to drag things out this long. Radel was leading a weird, self-destructive double life in Washington, and that’s not something his constituency was going to forget about, based on successful completion of a six-week rehab program. I live in his district, and can report that prayers and best wishes for his successful rehabilitation were given far and wide, but there was little support for his continued presence in Congress. This isn’t the sort of district that can shrug off abuse of trust in the name of political expediency, and there wasn’t much political advantage to be preserved in any event, as Radel would likely have ended up keeping his seat warm until he got bumped off in the next primary.
Perhaps that reality finally became undeniable to Radel now that the long congressional holiday is past, and he’s had a chance to measure public response to his completion of the rehab program. The House Ethics Committee also announced, just before the holiday recess, that it would begin an investigation of him – somewhat unusual, given that his offense was a misdemeanor and the Committee only launches automatic investigations of felony offenses, but according to Roll Call, the request was filed by an outside advocacy group through the Office of Congressional Ethics. The prospect of that investigation and subsequent action might have weighed in the Congressman’s decision.
Radel is married to Amy Wegmann, who was an anchor for the Fox News affiliate in his district before his election to Congress, while he worked as a talk-radio host and ran a media company. The couple has young son. He’s only 37 years old, so he has many years ahead to rebuild his life into something strong and tall. I wish him the best of good fortune in that endeavor.
Update: Here is the full text of Rep. Radel’s resignation letter to Speaker Boehner:
It has been an honor to serve my neighbors, friends and family of Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Regardless of some personal struggles in 2013, this year has already been tremendously positive as I focus on my health, family and faith.
Unfortunately, some of my struggles had serious consequences. While I have dealt with those issues on a personal level, it is my belief that professionally I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States Representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida.
I hereby submit this letter of resignation as the Representative of the 19th District of Florida, effective 6:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time, January 27, 2014. Please find the attached letter I have submitted to Governor Rick Scott.
On a personal note, Mr. Speaker, to you and our colleagues from both parties, I thank you. Thank you for the tremendous support and encouragement. Oftentimes in Congress, our personal relationships and successes are overshadowed by intense but meaningful and necessary debate. However, I leave the House of Representatives with friendships and memories of great men and women dedicated to helping and improving the lives of our fellow Americans.
As an eternal optimist, I know there are great things in store for our country when we find ways to work together. Whether it is as a father, a husband, or in any future endeavor, I hope to contribute what I can to better our country in the years to come.