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As House inquiry heats up, cocaine congressman Trey Radel to resign


In the fallout from his cocaine bust last year, Fort Myers Congressman Trey Radel submitted his resignation Monday because, he said, he couldn’t escape the “serious consequences” of his actions.

“While I have dealt with those issues on a personal level,” Radel wrote U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, “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.”

Radel, who will officially leave office at 6:30 p.m., announced he was quitting just as a House inquiry into his cocaine use started to get underway.

Despite his arrest for buying more than 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover cop in Washington D.C. in October, the 37-year-old political newcomer had planned to stay in his seat and rebuffed calls for him to step down from Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican Party of Florida, GOP leaders from the counties he represents and local newspapers.

Even if he didn't step down, Radel was going to face tough opposition from former opponent and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel. Florida Republican state Senate leader Lizbeth Benacquisto is expected to run for the seat as well.

In a written statement, Benacquisto said Radel made the right call, but didn’t say whether she’d run.

“I will consider the best way I can be of service to Florida and our region,” Benacquisto said. “This includes talking to my neighbors, my friends, and my family to seek their guidance moving forward.”

Scott plans to schedule a special election for Radel’s seat, a solidly Republican one that candidate Mitt Romney won with 61 percent of the vote in 2012, when the GOP presidential candidate lost statewide to President Obama by about a point.

Here's Radel's written statement:

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 p.m., 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.