No matter how you slice it, the past month or so hasn't been the best period of Rep. Trey Radel's life.
The Florida congressman, who blamed alcoholism for his getting charged with possession of cocaine in a recent police sting, is currently taking a leave of absence to get his life in order. Yet while Radel himself has not indicated a desire to make his break from Congress more permanent, GOP power brokers back home in Florida have other plans.
According to a report in Politico, Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry, along with two county-level Florida GOP big shots, has called for Radel to resign. "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," said Curry in an official statement.
Lee County GOP chair Terry Miller, and Mike Lyster, the chairman of the Collier County Republicans, also released identical statements calling on Radel to step down. "While the decision to complete the current term is his alone to make, we strongly encourage him to reflect on his ability to remain effective and that a return to Congress may serve only as an impediment to his recovery," the statements said. “We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately."
Radel, a first-term Republican from Fort Myers, Fla., checked into a rehabilitation clinic for addiction last week. He was swept up in a federal drug sting in October, when he bought cocaine from an undercover federal agent in Washington. Radel has taken a leave of absence from the House until the end of the year. His staff has not put a timeline on his stay in rehab.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have not said Radel should resign, but rather that it is up to the congressman, his family and constituents.
But there’s been a shift in the Republican establishment against Radel. In an interview with POLITICO last week, Miller said he was unsure if he would call on Radel to resign.
“Those are conversations we’re going to have to have farther down the road,” Miller told POLITICO. “I’m not going to confirm or deny that’s something I might or might not do. I honestly, at this juncture, I don’t know what my role as chairman and the role of the local party will be. The man needs help. Let him start that process.”
Miller and Lyster said in their Monday statement that the “purchase and use of illicit drugs” was a “shock and disappointment” to “not only to his constituents, but also to those who call him a friend.”
The three statements increase will likely pressure on Radel to resign, and certainly heighten the possibility he will be unseated in November.