Defying GOP Leaders, Rep. Trey Radel Won't Resign After Rehab | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Defying GOP Leaders, Rep. Trey Radel Won't Resign After Rehab

Play associated audio

It was November when Republican Trey Radel, a first-term congressman from Fort Myers, Fla., was charged with cocaine possession — a misdemeanor in Washington, D.C. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year's probation.

A few days before Christmas, fresh from a month in rehab, Radel held a news conference with his wife by his side. He apologized and said that alcohol, not cocaine, is his main problem, and that's what he was treated for.

But the main point of his news conference was to say that he would not step down from Congress.

"I love what I do," Radel said. "And I'm going to return to what I do, what you sent me to do in Washington, D.C — which is working for you and your family."

That's caused some consternation among GOP leaders in southwest Florida. Following his arraignment on drug charges, they called on Radel, a former TV anchor who represents a heavily Republican district, to resign.

Terry Miller, the Republican chairman in Lee County, Fla., says Radel's time in rehab and apology have done nothing to change that. Miller says he believes in apologies and second chances. But, Miller says, "When you betray the public's trust and you put yourself in illegal activity — and let's be clear, what he did would have been a felony had it happened in his home state — I think that disqualifies you from representing your constituency."

Drug Testing

He may be an embarrassment to some Republicans, but for comedians like Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, Radel has been another Florida punch line. Shortly after the arrest, Colbert skewered Radel's vote supporting a bill that would have required drug tests for people receiving food stamps. "Now, now, he's not a hypocrite," Colbert said. " 'Cause he doesn't get food stamps from the government — just his paycheck."

And despite his arrest, on that point — his vote to drug-test food stamp recipients — Radel isn't backing down. With remarkable political chutzpah, he announced at his post-rehab news conference that he'd like to take it further — and drug test elected officials.

"I think members of Congress can and should be tested as well," Radel said, apparently without irony. His reasoning? "Maybe it will help someone else in the future."

What's Next

The House Committee on Ethics has announced that it is investigating whether Radel's cocaine possession charge violates Congress' code of conduct. Those investigations typically take months.

The question Radel hasn't definitively answered yet is whether he plans to run again when his congressional term expires this year. But several other Republicans are exploring runs.

One likely candidate for Radel's seat, former Republican state Rep. Paige Kreegel, already has significant backing. A super PAC in southwest Florida has raised more than a million dollars to back Kreegel in the race.

Miller of the Lee County GOP thinks his constituents will reject Radel. He says he expects campaign donors will as well.

"We'll see how they react to this," Miller says. "I would have to speculate only that it's going to be much harder for some folks to write checks."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Gift Of Eternal Shelf Life: 'Tuck Everlasting' Turns 40

In Natalie Babbitt's celebrated classic, a young girl stumbles upon a secret spring and the family the spring has given eternal life to. Babbitt says she wrote the book to help kids understand death.
NPR

Food Industry Drags Its Heels On Recyclable And Compostable Packaging

A new report from two environmental groups reviewed the recyclability and compostability of packaging from 47 food companies. It found few examples of companies that have prioritized waste reduction.
NPR

Guantanamo Bay A Sticking Point Between U.S., Cuba Since 1903

Guantanamo Bay is home to the United States' oldest overseas base. Melissa Block talks to Vanderbilt History Professor Paul Kramer.
NPR

With 'Discover' Feature, Snapchat Bucks Social Trend In News

Snapchat says social media likes and shares aren't what makes a story important. The ephemeral messaging app has rolled out Discover, featuring multimedia articles from major news brands.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.