At 2:44 p.m. on October 29, freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) tweeted that he “had some fun in the past few wks.”
What kind of fun was he having? “On or about October 29, 2013, within the District of Columbia, Henry J. Radel III did unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally possess a quantity of cocaine, a controlled substance,” a charging document alleged Tuesday. The congressman has been formally charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession and will be arraigned Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court.
Prior to his arrest, Radel, 37, was best-known for self-identifying as a “hip-hop conservative.” In an essay for BuzzFeed, he described his love for the rap group NWA as a teenager in suburban Cincinnati and explained his philosophy:
“Liberty does not grow with government; they stand in contrast to one another. We have to vigilantly protect it, so we can continue to live in a free society. Music is and has always been another way to shed light where there is injustice. I am a Hip Hop Conservative, and that is not an oxymoron. It is the future of many others in my generation of 40 and below.”
In July, the Florida congressman took to his Twitter feed to deliver a track-by-track review of the new Jay Z album.
In a statement, Tuesday, Radel said: “I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida. I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice.”
Radel represents Florida’s 19th District, a solidly Republican stretch of southwest Florida that includes the cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral. He won a competitive primary in 2012 to succeed outgoing Rep. Connie Mack IV, who vacated the seat to mount an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate. Radel, a former television journalist, secured Mack’s endorsement in the primary campaign and bested a number of other Republicans, including Chauncey Goss, the son of former GOP congressman and CIA director Porter Goss.
Before his election, Radel was an anchor for a local CBS affiliate and later hosted a morning radio show called Daybreak With Trey Radel, which aired on an FM station affiliated with Fox News Radio. His wife, Amy Wegmann, is an anchor on a local Fox television station and they have a young son, Henry Jude Radel IV.
In Congress, Radel has been a strong conservative and Tea Party favorite who voted to prolong the government shutdown in October. He also received some national attention when, shortly after taking office, he suggested that impeachment should be “on the table” as a possible way to combat what he saw as overreach by the Obama administration. But he also has been a relatively reliable vote for House Speaker John Boehner, voting with fellow Republicans almost 92 percent of the time.
On drug laws, Radel has a mixed record. While the congressman was a cosponsor of a mandatory minimum sentencing reform bill this year, he also voted for an amendment to the farm bill that would allow states to drug test all recipients of food stamps, not just those who have already been convicted of drug crimes.
The Florida lawmaker is no stranger to controversy. His congressional bid was marred early on when news broke that he had bought a number of website names linked to potential opponents. What local papers dubbed “Domain Gate” escalated with reports that Radel also had bought a number of risqué domain names for websites. The registered sites included www.sexguideonline.com, as well as a number of more explicit sexual terms in Spanish. Radel later described the appearance of a sweat-stained Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) in a T-shirt and gym shorts on the House floor as “the best thing’s he seen” since being elected.
Paradoxically, when asked earlier this year to name his favorite vacation spot, Radel named Cartagena, Colombia.
“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel,” Radel said in his statement Tuesday. “Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions.
“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.
“Please keep my family in your prayers.”
If convicted, Radel faces a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.