By Molly K. Hooper - 01/07/14 06:52 PM EST
Rep. Trey Radel returned to work on Tuesday vowing to "rebuild and regain" the trust he lost when he pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine.
It was the first day back to work for the embattled freshman lawmaker, since he took a leave of absence in late November to go to rehab for alcoholism.
"I cannot express how sorry I am. I ask for your forgiveness," the lawmaker said off-camera at a last-minute news conference in the lobby of his Capitol Hill office suite.
Radel revealed he had not spoken with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) since leaving rehab in mid-December but that he has a meeting scheduled with the Speaker this week.
Also on Tuesday, Radel got his first official primary challenger, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel (R). Kreegel, who lost to Radel in the 2012 primary for the open seat, said voters deserved a "congressman without distractions, a congressman they can trust" and said the district "deserves serious, sober representation" to deal with the issues facing Congress.
Asked if he planned to run for reelection, the 37-year-old Radel stated that "reelection is the absolute last thing on my mind."
Tuesday marked the first time that Capitol Hill reporters have had a chance to interview the lawmaker since he left town for a rehab facility in Naples, Fla., just one day after a D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced him to one year of probation, random drug tests and a $250 fine for cocaine possession.
Though Radel has held two live news conferences in his South Florida district, the former TV anchor has shied away from speaking on-camera with inside-the-Beltway reporters since his arrest and conviction.
Despite the handful of TV news cameras planted outside his Capitol Hill office, Radel chose to speak with print reporters and editorial producers inside the lobby of his suite, away from microphones and video shots.
— This story was updated at 7:25 p.m.