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Disappointment follows in wake of Radel arrest

By Staff | Nov 21, 2013

The fall from grace being experienced by U.S. Rep. Trey Radel has brought many reactions from people throughout Cape Coral.

Radel said Wednesday he would take a leave of absence from Congress and donate his salary to charity after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession this week.

He entered a treatment facility on Thursday.

If there was one identifiable link, it’s that people were less concerned about Trey Radel the politician and more about Trey Radel the man.

Meanwhile, many of his rivals, within and outside the party, also had their say.

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, who has seen his name mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress in the wake of the Radel scandal, made his views clear in a statement.

“The news of Radel’s involvement with drugs is disappointing, and I hope he regains control of his life for the sake of a beautiful two-year-old boy and his wife. Beyond that, Southwest Florida expects and deserves better in our Representative.”

Byron Donalds, who ran against Radel in the Republican primary last year (and won Collier County despite a fifth-place finish) wouldn’t comment on Radel’s future or his own, for that matter. He only wished the best for Radel and his family.

“It’s disappointing, it’s disheartening. The main thing is that he gets healthy and my wife and I have been praying for his wife and his family,” Donalds said. “What happens as a politician remains to be seen. I don’t have much to say about it. It’s been a whirlwind the last 24 hours.”

Former State Rep. Gary Aubuchon, a Cape Coral resident who lost to Radel in the primary, said the Congressman likely has a hard road ahead.

“This situation, under normal conditions, would be tough,” he said. “Under normal conditions you would be hard pressed to handle everything that’s necessary when confronted with alcoholism and drug abuse. But in the microscope of Washington D.C,. and being in the position that he’s in, things are going to be extra hard.

“It doesn’t neccessarily impact the entire party but certainly for Trey it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for him to not only cope with the situation, but at the same time be able to serve his constituents,” Aubuchon added.

What it could mean for Radel in a district that was once considered a lay-up for the GOP could become wide open.

April Freeman, who is running for Congress next year as a Democrat, said she feels for his family and hopes he recovers, but said his credibility is damaged and the voters who put him there now have to suffer.

“I hope he recovers, but Southwest Florida shouldn’t have to recover from him as well,” Freeman said. “I don’t think he’s capable of representing Southwest Florida any longer. He’s used his alcohol addiction as an excuse to buy cocaine. He’s used poor judgment from his alcoholism and you wonder if he used poor judgment while in session.”

Freeman also wondered with Radel on leave, who will represent the region. She said he needs to be available to his constituents.

Former city councilman Bill Deile expressed extreme disappointment and shock when he heard the news, but perhaps shed some real light on what could happen next in the Radel camp.

“Many people say he has to do what’s right for his family. I say he has to do what’s right for the country,” Deile said. “If he can’t get cured, what can he do for the country? He can’t help it by imbibing and doing cocaine.”

Deile said once Radel gets beyond that, he needs to decide what’s best for the country, to stay or go, a decision Deile doesn’t believe he can make right now.

If he decides to stay, will the GOP want him? Deile said it’s a quandary the party will really have to debate.

“Is it better to take a chance on him being reelected or pressure him to resign, have the governor appoint someone to run as an incumbent,” Deile said. “Republicans espouse a different standard and supporters take more umbrage to those who cross the line.”

Others locally have expressed more concern for the man. New Cape councilman Richard Leon would only say Radel would be in his prayers.

Councilmember Rick Williams took a simialr view.

“I feel bad for him and his family. It’s not a good situation. I wish him luck,” Williams said. “He’s handled it well, he’s aware of the problem and is dealing with it. I don’t know what his political future is.”