Florida Republican leaders are now calling on Rep. Trey Radel to resign after his guilty plea last week for cocaine possession.
On October 29, Radel was arrested in Washington, D.C., for buying 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover agent. The freshman Florida congressman entered drug rehab after his arrest and said last week he would take a leave of absence from Congress and donate his salary to charity while in treatment. But now local leaders are saying that's not enough, and that Radel should resign immediately.
"The people of Florida’s 19th Congressional District need a Congressman who is 100 percent focused on the needs of Southwest Florida. Therefore, Congressman Radel should step down and focus his attention on rehabilitation and his family," Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry said in a statement late Monday.
Curry's statement followed statements from the Lee and Collier County GOP Executive Committees. The two counties in Radel's district issued the calls after holding emergency meetings for the embattled congressman to step down, and warned they wouldn't support him if he did run for another term.
“His actions clearly disqualify the pursuit of another term and if he should run for re-election, he would not enjoy our support,” statements from the Lee and Collier GOP committees read. “We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately.”
So far, national GOP leaders, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, haven't gone as far as to call for Radel's resignation, but the push from Florida officials is the biggest effort yet to oust Radel following his guilty plea last week.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that he supports the state GOP chairman's call for Radel to resign, according to NBC affiliate WBBH. "Look, Trey is going through a tough time," Scott said. "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."
According to the Miami Herald, the shift could be coming from reported moves by Radel from within rehab to shore up his own electoral support as likely primary challengers start to come forward.
There's "a sense among some Republicans that his rehabilitation at a pricey Naples facility wasn't genuine and that he wasn't honest with them," the Herald reported. "Two Republicans, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of disclosing private GOP talks, said Radel was reaching out to fellow Republicans to shore up support and talk politics while he was in rehab — instead of focusing on getting well."
In his solidly GOP district, several Republicans are rumored to be looking at challenging Radel if he runs again. According to Roll Call, those interested include former Rep. Connie Mack, who Radel succeed after Mack made a failed bid for Senate; and former congressional aide Chauncy Goss, the son of former congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss, who also made a failed bid for the seat in 2012.