Florida: Radel Challenged by Kreegel Seeking Rematch

Photograph by Jessica Gresko/AP Photo

This photo taken with a cellphone shows Rep. Henry “Trey” Radel, R-Fla., leaving court in Washington, on Nov. 20, 2013, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession and was sentenced to a year’s probation.

Florida Rep. Trey Radel, absent from Congress since pleading guilty in November to a cocaine possession charge, has drawn opposition in the Republican primary elections.

Paige Kreegel, a former state legislator whose backers formed a super-political action committee that has reported raising more than $1 million, said he will seek the Republican nomination in Florida’s 19th District, a Republican bastion in and around Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

“We need accountability, we need experience, we need sobriety,” Kreegel said in an e-mail to Political Capital, confirming that he has filed a statement of candidacy and a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. WBBH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, previously reported on Kreegel filing FEC papers.

“We need judgment,” Kreegel said. “It is NOT about Radel. It is about the 795,000 folks in the district. They deserve better.”

Kreegel, a physician, ran against Radel in the 2012 Republican primary, finishing third among six candidates with 18 percent of the vote. Radel won with 30 percent, followed by Chauncey Goss’s 22 percent. Former Rep. Connie Mack left open the seat to run unsuccessfully for the Senate; both he and Goss are potential candidates in the 19th. The Republican primary is Aug. 26.

Radel hasn’t said if he’ll seek a second House term. He has resisted calls by state and county Republican chairmen to resign. Radel said Dec. 19 that he had finished an alcohol rehabilitation program and planned to return to work after taking a leave of absence. He pleaded guilty Nov. 20 to misdemeanor cocaine possession and last voted in the House on Nov. 15. The House ethics committee has initiated an investigation into his conduct.

Radel plans to return to Washington next week for the start of the second session of the 113th Congress, Politico reported this week.

“Undoubtedly, the first thing I have to do is restore a lot of trust and make amends, and only then can I return to what I love doing and what I was elected to do,” Radel told USA Today yesterday.

Political Capital first reported Dec. 31 that a super-PAC called “Values are Vital” raised $1 million last month from two people who donated to Kreegel’s 2012 campaign.

PAC chairman Anthony Farhat, a Florida developer and Kreegel friend who also donated to his 2012 campaign, told Political Capital he organized the PAC so that Republican voters won’t “make the same mistake twice.”

Kreegel, a family doctor and emergency physician for three decades, said in an e-mail that the problems of President Barack Obama’s health-care law “run much deeper than the website glitches.” The law has been disruptive to Southwestern Florida residents, he said.

“When the government distorts an existing market, there seem to be inevitable unforeseen consequences,” Kreegel said. “I feel that with my background, that I can be an asset and help with the process.”



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