Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession Wednesday, held an emotional press conference several hours later to announce that he would not resign from Congress. Instead Radel, a first-term Tea Partier from southwest Florida, said he would take a leave of absence to seek inpatient treatment for what he obliquely referred to as “his disease.” The congressman, who was sentenced to a year’s probation and paid a $250 fine in a Washington, D.C., court, had previously said in a statement to the press that he was an alcoholic.
At a 10:30 p.m. press conference, Radel started off by saying: “I’m sorry. I have no excuse for what I’ve done, I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses.” He added: “I hope I can be a role model for millions of others struggling with this disease.” After his statement, Radel, a former journalist and radio show host, took relatively softball questions from local reporters, acknowledging that he had been “dealing with this off and on for years” and that his mother was also an alcoholic.
It's unclear what the long-term consquences will be for Radel’s political career. The first congressman to plead guilty to a drug charge in more than 30 years, he was previously a relatively obscure backbencher best known for being a self-proclaimed “hip-hop conservative.” Already, a number of other Republicans in Radel’s safe red district are making noises about mounting a primary challenge against him.