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27 Jan, 2014 19:21

Florida congressman resigns amid cocaine scandal

Florida congressman resigns amid cocaine scandal

United States Congressman Trey Radel (R-Florida) is officially resigning from his post in the House of Representatives following a months-long scandal that erupted when he was charged with cocaine possession.

The 37-year-old Republican lawmaker from Fort Myers, Florida, announced his resignation in a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner. He will step down at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, about a month after leaving rehab and returning to Congress.

"Unfortunately, some of my struggles had serious consequences," Radel wrote in the letter. "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."

Elected to Congress in 2012, Radel was charged by authorities in October after attempting to purchase 3.5 grams of cocaine – a decision he traced back to his struggle with alcoholism – from an undercover federal agent in Washington, DC. In November, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession. He was sentenced to a year of probation and fined $250.

Following a month-long stint in rehab, Radel returned to Congress at the beginning of the year despite numerous calls from within his own party to step down. He has apparently reconsidered that decision, however, and has also notified Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner of his decision to resign.

"I believe that Trey is making the right decision for him and his family," Scott said in a statement Monday, according to USA Today. "I'm glad that he has sought help, and it's my hope he continues to put his attention on rehabilitation and his family."

During his time in office, Radel was an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act, and made a name for himself as the “hip hop conservative” for speaking publicly about his interest in rap music, which he credited for opening his eyes to numerous issues.

Although Radel was elected in a heavily conservative district, his resignation is expected to spark a competitive primary as politicians jockey to succeed him. According to the Washington Post, former State Rep. Paige Kreegel, State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto and Radel’s predecessor, former congressman Connie Mack, are all possible candidates.

"Trey's decision to resign from Congress was undoubtedly very difficult, but it was the right decision," Mack told USA Today in a statement. "Now it's time for Southwest Florida to elect a new congressman who will be a tireless champion of our shared mainstream conservative values."