PAC fundraises to challenge coke congressman

Rep. Trey Radel, in Washington, July 9, 2013.
Rep. Trey Radel, in Washington, July 9, 2013.

 A super PAC has raised a million dollars to challenge Republican Rep. Trey Radel, a congressman convicted of cocaine possession.

The first-term Florida representative took a leave of absence shortly after pleading guilty to the coke charge and hasn’t cast a vote in more than a month. Now, Radel’s critics already lining up to defeat him.

The super PAC, Values are Vital, has raised $1 million from two donors who were opponents of Radel in his 2012 race, according to federal filings reported by Bloomberg News. The pair, Ronald Firman and Martin Burns, both supported former Florida state Rep. Paige Kreegal, who finished third in a Republican primary again Radel in the conservative district. It wasn’t clear if the PAC was designed to support another Kreegal run or oppose Radel in general.

Kreegal is reportedly considering challenging Radel, as is former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who represented the district for years before he ran for Senate in 2012, losing to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The freshman representative from Florida was caught in a federal sting in late October and pled guilty to a misdemeanor coke possession charge—he was sentenced to one year of probation and announced that he'd seek counseling and treatment. 

On Friday, Radel announced that he would return to Congress next week after what he called a "life-changing" 28-day treatment program.

"Undoubtedly, the first thing I have to do is restore a lot of trust and make amends, and only then can I return to what I love doing and what I was elected to do," he told Gannett News.

As for reelection and the opponents in the wings?

"That is absolutely not even a thought in my mind at all, period," he told the reporter. "I will when I feel that I am ready. Right now, the most important things for me are God and family, and with that I'm excited to get back to work to rebuild trust and continue doing the work for the people."