Trey Radel Defies Florida GOP Request to Step Down

Radel could face a bitter primary battle in 2014 as Republicans size up their chances.

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Congressman Trey Radel addresses the media at his office in Cape Coral on Wednesday night Nov. 20, 2013.
Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., could face a bitter primary battle in 2014.

Trey Radel is not stepping down, no matter what anyone in Florida thinks of him.

The leader of the state's Republican Party and multiple county GOP chairmen called on the embattled GOP congressman to step down from his post Monday night. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, joined in the chorus calling on Radel to resign.

[READ: Trey Radel Announces Leave of Absence]

Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said the "decision to complete the current term is his alone to make," but urged Radel to bow out early in order to allow residents in Florida's 19th District to have a full-time lawmaker in Washington.

"We strongly encourage him to reflect on his ability to remain effective and that a return to Congress may serve only as an impediment to his recovery," Curry said in an emailed statement. "We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately. We hope that he can focus solely on his rehabilitation and allow the citizens to begin their own healing process. We thank Trey for his service and wish only the best for him and his family."

The freshman congressmen, however, seems far from ready to take down his nameplate on Capitol Hill. A photo appeared in the Naples Daily News Tuesday of Radel coolly smoking outside the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center where he being rehabilitated for alcoholism. Radel has taken a leave of absence from Congress to focus on his recovery.

"It really is upsetting," he told reporters Tuesday in reference to those calling for his resignation. "As I sit here and work on focusing on my family and health with people coming and harassing me."

[CHARTS: The Internet Is High on Cocaine Congressman Trey Radel]

Radel, 37, pleaded guilty to buying 3.5 ounces of cocaine on Nov. 20, 2013. Radel was caught in a sting operation in D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood in October when he purchased the narcotic and was sentenced to one year's probation for the offense.

Party leaders are not the only ones in Florida pressuring Radel to step aside. Radel's primary opponents from 2012 are also threatening to launch campaigns against him in the strongly conservative district.

According to the Miami Herald, former state Rep. Paige Kreegal, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and even former Rep. Connie Mack, who stepped down from the seat to run for Senate in 2012, are sizing up their chances in what could be a vicious 2014 primary battle.

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