U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives Monday morning, leaving a coveted seat in Congress up for grabs.
Regardless of some personal struggles in 2013, this year has already been tremendously positive as I focus on my health, family and faith, said Radel in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. Unfortunately, some of my struggles had serious consequences. While I have dealt with these issues on a personal level, it is my belief professionally I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida.
Radels resignation will go into effect at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Radels troubles surfaced at the end of October when he bought 3.5 grams of cocaine from an acquaintance and an undercover agent in Washingtons Dupont Circle. Court documents said Radel gave the undercover officer $250 for the drug outside of a restaurant, and the two got into the officer's vehicle, where the officer gave Radel the cocaine. Federal agents then approached Radel after he left the vehicle, and he dropped the cocaine to the street, according to court documents.
Radel pleaded guilty to the charge in November and was sentenced to a year of probation.
In December, the House Ethics Committee announced it would be launching a formal investigation into the alleged misconduct by Radel.
Initially, Radel said he would only be taking a leave of absence from the House to attend rehab, saying he needed to focus on combating his alcoholism. But the voices calling for the Fort Myers congressmans resignation grew louder, and soon after Radel entered rehab, his political allies encouraged him to step down.
The people of Floridas 19th Congressional District need a congressman who is 100 percent focused on the needs of Southwest Florida," said Republican Party of Florida chair Lenny Curry. "Therefore, Congressman Radel should step down and focus his attention on rehabilitation and his family.
Republicans in Radels hometown were not quiet about voicing their disappointment over his actions.
"These actions have violated the trust of those whom he was elected to represent and fall short of the standards for an elected official -- especially a member of the United States Congress," said statements from the Lee and Collier County Republican executive committees.
Radel served Floridas 19th Congressional District for a year.
Political analysts have long held that Radel was on a dead-end road after his arrest -- and Republicans had already begun to gear up to replace the freshman congressman.
Radels district is solidly Republican -- he won the 2012 election against Democrat Jim Roach with 63 percent of the vote.
Connie Mack, Chauncey Goss, Paige Kreegel and Lizbeth Benacquistos names have floated around as possible Republican contenders for the seat.
"This announcement ... makes it clear that Southwest Florida families will soon choose a new voice to represent them in Congress," said Benacquisto shortly after Radel's resignation. "I will consider the best way I can be of service to Florida and our region. This includes talking to my neighbors, my friends, and my family to seek their guidance moving forward.
A special election will be held to replace Radel in the House, but a date has not yet been set.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.