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Republicans call on Florida congressman to resign

November 26, 2013

TAMPA, Florida (AP) — An aide to a U.S. Congressman who recently pleaded guilty to cocaine possession says the Republican is focusing on rehab and will return to work as soon as possible, despite calls from party leaders in Florida for him to step down.

Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Radel’s “top priority right now is to complete his rehabilitation and then return to work as soon as possible,” spokesman Dave Natonski wrote Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press.

Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, joined the growing number of Republican leaders in Florida who have urged Radel to step down.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Radel and his family,” said Scott.

Radel, if he refuses to resign, could only be expelled from the House of Representatives if two-thirds of the members agree, an extremely rare move. Only two House members have been expelled, both for bribery, since the mid-1800s.

Meanwhile, the Naples Daily News reported that it spoke to Radel on Tuesday morning at his downtown Naples rehabilitation facility. The paper took photos of Radel wearing a T-shirt and jeans, smoking and talking with another man while seated at a picnic table.

“I’m here talking to my buddy,” he told the paper. “I feel great. I am here focused on my family and my health.”

“It really is upsetting,” he continued, “As I sit here and work on focusing on my family and health with people coming and harassing me.”

On Monday, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida suggested Radel should step down after his recent cocaine conviction in Washington, joining party leaders in Radel’s own district calling for his resignation.

“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,” wrote Michael D. Lyster, chairman of the Collier County Republicans.

Last Wednesday, Radel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession. He admitted to purchasing 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover officer in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood last month. After the undercover officer gave Radel the drugs, federal agents confronted him, court documents show.

Radel agreed to talk with the agents and invited them to his apartment, where he also retrieved a vial of cocaine he had in the home, the documents said.

Radel had been in office for 10 months when he was charged. His district includes the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers and Naples.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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