Rep. Trey Radel, the freshman Florida Republican who was caught trying to purchase cocaine in a sting operation in Washington, D.C. in October, resigned from Congress Monday, setting up another special election to fill a vacancy in the GOP-controlled House.
Mr. Radel’s letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said his resignation was effective Monday evening. He had originally talked of perhaps holding on to the seat he won in November 2012, but came under heavy pressure from party leaders to step aside.
In the letter, Mr. Radel wrote that it has been an “honor” to serve Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and that “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,” he wrote. “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.”
Mr. Radel, a onetime talk radio host elected in 2012, was caught trying to purchase cocaine in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood in late October. Several top GOP officials in Florida, including the chairman of the state party, had called on him to resign after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession.
Potential successors to Mr. Radel in the state’s 19th district — reliably Republican territory — took a cautious line Monday.
“I know the last several months have been trying for Trey and his family,” said former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who announced earlier this month he would run against Mr. Radel in a primary. “But he did the right thing for the people he represents and provided all of us a chance to move forward without the distractions of the past.”
Former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, Florida Republican, said that Mr. Radel’s decision was undoubtedly difficult, but that it was the right one.
“Now it’s time for Southwest Florida to elect a new congressman who will be a tireless champion of our shared mainstream conservative values,” he said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, one of the state Republicans who pressed Mr. Radel to quit, will set a date for a special election to fill the seat. The GOP’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, carried the district by 61 percent to 39 percent in the 2012 election.
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