"I'm sorry, I have no excuse for what I've done, and I'm not going to try to make any excuses for what I've done... I've let down our country. I've let down our constituents. I've let down my family, including my wife and, even though he doesn't know it, I've let down my 2-year-old son."
- Congressman Trey Radel
Southwest Florida Congressman Trey Radel returned home Wednesday, calling a late-night press conference at his Cape Coral office.
In the wake of his guilty plea to cocaine possession entered Wednesday in Washington D.C., Congressman Radel apologized for letting supporters and family down and announced that he would be taking a leave of absence to enter a treatment center for substance abuse.
He previously issued a statement saying he suffers from alcoholism and that illness led to "an extremely irresponsible choice" that he regrets.
We will not question the sincerity of his remorse.
We, in fact, believe it is heartfelt and offered from the depths of pain for his wife and child.
We will not enter the fray of public life versus private choices, nor will we debate the issues of illness and the right to treatment, or forgiveness and second chances.
These things are not the immediate matter at hand for the residents of District 19 who are entitled to nothing less than the representation and leadership they were promised by the man they elected and who was sworn into the U.S. House of Represenatives just 10 short months ago.
Unfortunately, despite his assurances to the contrary, proper representation and the ability to serve in the leadership role required to be effective in office are not things that Congressman Radel can offer his constituents right now.
Nor is there any certainty that he can provide them in the near future.
House terms are two-year stints, with the District 19 seat up next year. Not only does the congressman face treatment for an illness severe enough, in his own words, to bring him to "rock bottom," he faces the near impossible task of immediately re-establishing credibility among his congressional peers. We in Lee and Collier counties do not deserve a "placeholder," whose ability to serve is limited to voting the party line rather than effectively bringing local issues and concerns forward on our behalf. We deserve a leader, something Congressman Radel promised us he would be.
Put in a financial perspective -something Congressman Radel, a fiscal conservative, should appreciate- the position he holds pays $174,000 per year. Southwest Florida deserves nothing less than maximum benefit for that buck. That means the residents, the issues, and job are priority No. 1.
Right now they are not.
And sadly, we are not convinced that, given the circumstances, they can be.
Not next year.
It is with great sadness that we urge Congressman Radel to resign.
For the good of his health.
For the good of his family.
For the good of the community he says he loves.
Editor's Note: As of press time, Congressman Radel had checked into a treatment facility. He had not made any announcement indicating plans to resign.