Fla. Congressman to Resign After Cocaine Scandal
Florida law states that special elections and special primary elections “shall be held” in four instances, including when a vacancy occurs in Florida’s congressional delegation. However, there is no timetable for when those elections must be held.
A spokesman for Scott said the governor plans to work with “the Secretary of State’s office to find a date to hold a special election.”
Brittany Lesser, communications director for the Florida Department of State, declined to comment on a timeline for this type of election, only saying Secretary of State Ken Detzner plans to work with Scott to set a date.
Dave Carpenter, the qualifying officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office, said Detzner likely will work with Collier and Lee supervisors to set a schedule. Carpenter said he expects the special election process could take up to four months.
“It adds another cycle to the year,” he said.
Carpenter said a special election could cost Collier County between $500,000 and $700,000. He said it may cost closer to $1 million in Lee County.
The last time there was a special election in Collier County was in 2007 following the death of then- state Rep. Mike Davis. Carpenter said he didn’t recall how much that election cost.
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said the governor will have the ultimate say over when to set the special election.
“There is no timeline,” she said. “Last time, when it was the (Rep. Bill) Young thing, there was speculation even then that he would let (the seat) stay open.”
Young, a Pinellas County Republican, died in October after more than 40 years in Congress. The primary for the seat was held in mid-January, and the general election is scheduled for March 11.
If the state followed a similar timetable for the Radel seat, a primary could be held in March or April; while the special general election could be in June or July.
The 2014 regularly scheduled congressional primary is Aug. 26.
Radel’s resignation has done nothing to convince nationally syndicated radio and television personality Sean Hannity to leave New York.
Hannity has said more than once that he may consider a congressional campaign, but he won’t throw his hat in the ring for Florida’s upcoming special election.
“He has a nationally syndicated radio and TV show that’s under contract for the next several years,” said Lynda McLaughlin, executive producer of his radio show. “Sean has often said once he’s no longer under obligation he does intend to leave New York. Whether that’s going to be for Florida, Texas, North Carolina, we don’t know yet. But he talks about Naples often and he loves Naples.”
Hannity renewed his contract for his radio show, based in New York, within the past year, she said.
“There’s a lot of rumors and speculation but I’d say that’s all it is right now,” McLaughlin said. “The very, very honest answer is we’re under contract; we’re going to be here for a bit.”
In a letter to House Speak John Boehner, Rep. Trey Radel said while he has dealt with his issues on a personal level, it was his belief that “professional I cannot fully and effectively serve as a United States Representative to the place I love and call home, Southwest Florida.”
Radel submitted his letter of resignation on Monday morning to Boehner. His resignation will go into effect at 6:30 p.m.
“It has been an honor to serve my neighbors, friends and family of Florida’s 19th Congressional district,” he said in his letter. “Regardless of some personal struggles in 2013, this year has already been tremendously positive as I focus on my health, family and faith.”
Radel also thanked Boehner and his congressional colleagues for “the tremendous support and encouragement.”
“Oftentimes in Congress, our personal relationships and successes are overshadowed by intense but meaningful and necessary debate,” he said in his letter. “However, I leave the House of Representatives with friendships and memories of great men and women dedicated to helping and improving the lives of our fellow Americans.”
“As an eternal optimist, I know there are great things in store for our country when we find ways to work together. Whether it is as a father, a husband, or in any future endeavor, I hope to contribute what I can to better our country in the years to come.”
Radel also submitted letters of resignation to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
There was no sign of activity at Radel's home in Fort Myers and no sign of his wife, Amy Wegmann.
TREY RADEL'S RESIGNATION LETTER
Response to Trey Radel's Resignation
Jeff Lytle responds to his resignation.
Rep. Trey Radel Press Conference
He will stay in office, return to ...
U.S. Rep. Trey Radel will resign Monday, says the congressman's spokesman.
"I can confirm he is resigning today," Greg Dolan, Radel's spokesman, said in an email to the Naples Daily News on Monday morning.
Radel was caught buying cocaine in November from an undercover federal agent in Washington and spent nearly a month in a rehabilitation facility.
The first-term Republican plans to send a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Monday, sources said.
The decision to fill the seat now rests with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who can schedule a special election for Radel's sat.
Candidates already have decided to run for the congressional district, including Republican Paige Kreegel, a former state representative. Kreegel finished third to Radel in a 2012 primary.
Another candidate expected to run is Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Republican leader in the Florida Senate in Tallahassee. Other names mentioned include former Rep. Connie Mack, also a Fort Myers Republican who held the seat before Radel.
For state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, the news immediately raised concerns about the election process going forward.
There is no appointment procedure for Congress members who resign. With an election in November, there would not be much time for a primary election and a special election to find Radel a replacement.
Passidomo called the situation a Catch 22.
"We will be unrepresented until November," she said. "We will not have a voice in Washington until November and that's very troubling. The other question is whether he had resigned or not would he have been an effective voice or not."
However, under state law, the governor is required to call a special election to fill the seat.
Naples Mayor John Sorey said his thoughts and prayers are with Radel and his family.
"It's probably the honorable thing to do," Sorey said of Radel's resignation. "I think he had a great opportunity in front of him, but he has to do what he needs to do."
"I wish him the best of luck with whatever he chooses to do in the future," he added.
Ray Netherwood is the Libertarian Party of Florida candidate for Radel's seat this fall. He said if a special election is called before November, he'll be ready to run.
"To leave (the seat) open would be harmful to the folks down here," he said. "At the same time it's not cheap (to hold a special election.)"
Netherwood said it would have made more sense for RAdel to have resigned sooner.
"To me it would have been much easier had it been done back before going into rehab," Netherwood said. "It would have saved a lot of gnashing of teeth and groaning over the months."
Continue to follow this developing story at naplesnews.com.
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