Florida GOP demands Radel's resignation

Looks like an apology and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of possession didn’t do the trick for Congressman Trey Radel. Three officials from the Florida Republican Party demanded Radel’s resignation rather than just a leave of absence after getting caught with more than three grams of cocaine:

Three top Florida Republican leaders — including the state party chairman — say Rep. Trey Radel should resign, less than one week after he plead guilty to possession of cocaine.

State party chair Lenny Curry, Lee County GOP chair Terry Miller and Mike Lyster, the chairman of the Collier County Republicans issued statements late Monday, saying the Florida Republican should step down.

Miller and Lyster’s statement was identical — they also said if he runs for reelection in 2014, Radel “would not enjoy our support.

“While the decision to complete the current term is his alone to make, we strongly encourage him to reflect on his ability to remain effective and that a return to Congress may serve only as an impediment to his recovery,” the pair said in separate statements. “We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately. We hope that he can focus solely on his rehabilitation and allow the citizens to begin their own healing process. We thank Trey for his service and wish only the best for him and his family.”

It’s not just a coincidence that FL-19 happens to be a safely Republican district, with a Cook Index of R+11. This used to be Robert Wexler’s seat and a Democratic stronghold until redistricting after the 2010 census changed the balance.   A resignation would touch off a special election, which the GOP would probably have little difficulty winning, especially in the post-ObamaCare rollout environment.

Had this arrest occurred after the shutdown and without the ObamaCare meltdown, would the state GOP be as anxious to unload Radel? Possibly not, although the Republicans face a tough effort to keep the governor’s office in their column in the midterms next year.  They don’t need a cloud of scandal distracting from that effort, especially with Charlie Crist readying a run for his old job from the other side of the aisle.  (Just remember, if Crist had stuck with that job rather than run for the Senate, he’d still be a Republican governor now and a shoe-in for a third term.)  Even if Radel pledged not to run for his seat in 2014, the scandal would be a little too close for comfort in a competitive election cycle.  Hence, the Republican Party wants to lance the boil now rather than let it fester.  Call it electoral hygiene.