Rep. Radel leaves rehab, won't say if he'll seek reelection

Greg Nash

Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) has left the facility in Naples, Fla., where he was being treated for alcohol addiction.

At a press conference Thursday night, Radel continued to defy calls to resign and said he looked forward to returning to Congress. He also thanked constituents for the support they had shown him and continued to express regret for his actions.

“I’m thankful, but I’m still remorseful,” Radel said.

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Radel pleaded guilty last month to cocaine possession in Washington, D.C., following an October police sting that caught him purchasing the drug. He was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to visit a rehab facility.

In a statement released after the criminal charges became public, Radel said that he struggled with alcoholism and that this led to his use of cocaine. He began in-patient treatment for his alcohol abuse at the Hazeldon Addiction Center on Nov. 21.

Radel has so far refused to resign his office, although the state Republican Party and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) have both called for him to step down.

So far, Florida’s congressional delegation has been more reserved, with only Rep. Jeff Miller (R) calling for Radel to call it quits.

Several lawmakers have said Radel is likely to face a tough reelection fight, especially if Connie Mack, who represented the area before a failed Senate bid in 2012, decides to challenge him.

When questioned by reporters Thursday, Radel said that he had only used cocaine “a handful of times,” and insisted alcoholism was his primary issue. When asked when he first used drugs, Radel said “like many people” he experimented with them during his college days. He also said that he was never high or drunk while voting, and that he did not use drugs with people connected to Congress or Capitol Hill.

Radel occasionally grew defensive as reporters questioned his account of his drug use, with one reporter questioning whether Radel could call himself a “casual” cocaine user if he was able to find a dealer in Washington in just ten months.

“I’m not a liar,” Radel insisted in response.

Radel said he would support submitting members of Congress to drug testing; since his conviction he has faced significant criticism for backing drug testing for welfare recipients while being a secret drug user himself.

Last Monday, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to open an investigation into Radel's actions. Such an investigation could lead to a former House reprimand or even an expulsion.

Radel declined to say whether he planned to seek reelection.

“Politics and reelection are the last thing on my mind right now,” Radel said.

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