Trey Radel Resignation Starts Scramble for Safe Republican Seat

The intra-party squabble was already in progress before Radel prompted a special election.

Rep. Trey Radel, R- Fla., is interviewed in the Capitol Hill office in Washington D.C. 
National Journal
Scott Bland
Jan. 27, 2014, 4:06 a.m.

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., plans to resign from Con­gress on Monday, set­ting off a spe­cial elec­tion for his seat in south­w­est Flor­ida.

In some ways, though, that race had already star­ted, with al­lies of two po­ten­tial suc­cessors snip­ing over the air­waves and in the press. And that’s even be­fore former Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Con­nie Mack, who could try a comeback, has made his in­ten­tions known.

Radel’s Fort My­ers-based 19th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict is heav­ily Re­pub­lic­an, and that already-in-pro­gress primary is where the ac­tion will be. Paige Kree­gel, a former state rep­res­ent­at­ive who fin­ished third to Radel in the 2012 primary, had ready de­cided to run again after Radel was charged with and pleaded guilty to co­caine pos­ses­sion. And two of Kree­gel’s donors have seeded a new su­per PAC with $1 mil­lion to back him in 2014.

Mean­while, state Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Lizbeth Ben­ac­quisto has said she is think­ing about run­ning for her loc­al con­gres­sion­al seat, and she has also be­gun “heavy spend­ing” on in­tro­duct­ory, bio­graph­ic­al TV ads, us­ing her state Sen­ate cam­paign fund. That led to the pro-Kree­gel su­per PAC, “Val­ues Are Vi­tal,” go­ing on TV with its own ads cri­ti­ciz­ing Ben­ac­quisto’s man­euver, which in turn promp­ted the state Re­pub­lic­an Party to send a cease-and-de­sist let­ter to the loc­al TV sta­tion air­ing the ads.

That sum­mar­izes the Janu­ary activ­ity for a filled con­gres­sion­al seat with an Au­gust primary. Now that Radel is leav­ing the seat open — prompt­ing an ac­cel­er­ated spe­cial elec­tion — the pace is sure to get even more fren­zied.

Flor­ida Gov. Rick Scott’s of­fice will set the spe­cial elec­tion date soon; Scott and loc­al au­thor­it­ies took less than two weeks after late Rep. Bill Young died in Oc­to­ber to set the date for the elec­tions to name Young’s suc­c­cessor. The primary for that race took place on Janu­ary 14, just un­der three months after the seat be­came va­cant.

Oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing one former rep­res­ent­at­ive who might have an in­side track, have also ex­pressed in­terest in the con­gres­sion­al seat. Mack, who left the safe seat in 2012 to make an un­suc­cess­ful run for the Sen­ate, sent out sev­er­al state­ments while the spot­light was on Radel last year, and he re­portedly con­tac­ted sup­port­ers to set up a re­turn trip to the House. Chaun­cey Goss, the son of former Rep. Port­er Goss who fin­ished second in the 2012 primary, said in Novem­ber he was con­sid­er­ing an­oth­er bid.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
2 days ago

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Trump Cancels Rallies
4 days ago

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”