NAPLES, Fla. - A day after Collier and Lee Republicans called for his resignation, U.S. Rep. Trey Radel took a smoke break at his treatment facility in downtown Naples and said he's being harassed as he tries to focus on his health.
The 37-year-old's aides have said the freshman congressman will return to his job following his arrest and admission of cocaine use this month.
In the meantime, Radel sat with a friend outside Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in downtown Naples at about 7:40 a.m. Tuesday.
Wearing jeans, a grey shirt and a pair of Aviators, Radel smoked a cigarette and sipped coffee as the pair laughed and talked.
When approached by journalists, Radel discreetly dropped his cigarette.
He was cordial with reporters, smiling and shaking their hands while he remained seated.
"I'm here talking to my buddy," he said. "I feel great. I am here focused on my family and my health."
"It really is upsetting," he continued, "As I sit here and work on focusing on my family and health with people coming and harassing me."
When pressed for details, Radel clammed up.
"I'll just leave it at that," he said.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for Hertz's new headquarters in Estero, Gov. Rick Scott said his thoughts and prayers are with Radel and his family members. However, Scott said, he agrees with what the Republican Party leadership is urging Radel to do. Party leaders in the state, as well as Lee and Collier, have urged him to resign immediately and focus on rehabilitating and on his family.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Radel and his family," Scott said.
Local state representatives Matt Hudson and Kathleeen Passidomo, who are taking part in delegation meetings Tuesday in Naples and Immokalee, both weighed in on Radel's predicament.
Hudson said Radel should resign, because his first duty is to his family, focusing on them and getting well.
"I think it's important for him to get well," Hudson said. "This is a person who has legal challenges but more importantly he has some substance abuse issues. Southwest Florida needs someone in Washington who is able to focus entirely on his duties."
Passidomo said if she was in Radel's position, she would resign. But she said it's not an easy decision because of the cost and time it would take for a special election.
"It's a tough question because I think the issue is whether or not we will be effectively represented if he resigns,"she said.
When asked if she was interested in replacing Radel in Washington D.C., Passidomo said no.
"Absolutely not," she said. "I am much more effective representing my constituents in Tallahassee."
On whether Radel should resign, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said Radel's top priority should be his family.
"I'm going to reserve judgment on that," he said. "I think that's a decision he has to make."
Richter said he has no interest in Radel's seat in Congress.
"No, I'm not (running)," he said. "I find it very rewarding to serve our state in the capacity I'm in now in Tallahassee."
If Radel were to resign, Richter said, there are a number of qualified candidates, and that would include state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers.