The Southwest Florida Young Republicans voted Monday to support rehabbing Republican Rep. Trey Radel staying on the job, despite pressure from Florida Republican officials and Gov. Rick Scott to step down over his cocaine arrest in Washington in October.
At a meeting Monday night, the group approved a statement saying Radel should stay in office at least through the end of his freshman term in November. The group said Radel’s 19th District constituents deserve the congressional representation they would lose if he resigned, and that a special election would be time-consuming and expensive.
The group took no position on whether Radel should seek re-election.
The group issued the following statement:
“Last night, the SWFL Young Republicans met to have an open and honest discussion regarding Congressman Trey Radel. We believed that it was important for our members, many of which are new to the political process, to be able to voice their opinion on whether our congressman should be encouraged to remain in office through the remainder of his term or resign.
“Following our discussion, a vote of our membership was held. The resulting vote was that sixty percent of our members supported Congressman Radel remaining in office for the balance of his term. Our members took no action on re-election, but solely on completing the current term of office.
“Our members believed that the restrictions placed on constituent services combined with the lack of voting representation that would be created by a congressional vacancy would place Southwest Florida and the Republican Party at a severe disadvantage. A special election would be costly and take 4-6 months. Our district would then face another election shortly thereafter.
“Based upon this realistic assessment of the situation, we chose to support continued representation at the Congressional level . Although we do not condone Congressman Radel’s actions, we do not believe that the constituents of our district should lose representation due to those actions.”
The statement was announced on the “Daybreak” radio show on Fox News 92.5 FM, according to the News Press of Fort Myers.
Radel was sentenced to a year probation and fined $250 for misdemeanor cocaine possession after an undercover drug arrest.
The Republican Party of Florida has called for his resignation, echoed by Scott. The Republican executive committees of Collier and Lee counties have also urged Radel to resign and said they would not support him if he chose to seek re-election.
Radel is on a leave of absence from Congress in a rehabilitation center in Naples. He has announced he will donate his congressional salary to charity.