As Rep. Trey Radel was pleading guilty to cocaine possession in a Washington courtroom Wednesday, Republicans back in his Florida district were discussing how to respond to whatever comes next, including the possibility the seat could become vacant if the congressman resigns.
"The problem surrounding Rep. Radel did come up," Gary Lee, a member of the Lee County Republican Party Board of Directors, told Newsmax shortly after emerging from a meeting of the board's strategic-planning committee at Edison State College.
Lee, who also is GOP chairman for the 19th Congressional District represented by the embattled Radel, said, "Right now, our concern is for the congressman's wife and young son, and for his constituents."
Although he declined to provide details, Lee told Newsmax that there was discussion of what could happen if and when there was a vacancy in the congressional seat.
"We want all the facts — the whole story — before taking any action," Lee said.
Collier County, the neighboring county in the district, soon will have a similar meeting under the aegis of GOP County Chairman Mike Lister.
But there already is talk that the runner-up in the Republican primary to Radel last year, Chauncey Goss, would almost surely run when and if the incumbent decides to resign.
Radel has so far said nothing about resigning, telling reporters, "I have hit a rock bottom where I realize I need help" and that he intends to enter a rehabilitation program soon.
Later on Wednesday, Radel, who received one year probation for the cocaine charge, said he would be taking a leave of absence, however, and would donate his salary during that time.
Goss, son of former congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss, is past deputy staff director of the House Budget Committee and ran last time with the endorsement of 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Also mentioned as a possible Republican contender is another runner-up in the 2012 primary, former state legislator Gary Aubuchon, who upset many on the right by refusing to sign the anti-tax pledge of Americans for Tax Reform.
There have been some reports in the national press of a comeback bid by former Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV, who held the 19th District seat from 2002 until making an unsuccessful race for the Senate in 2012.
But Mack has gone through two nasty divorces and is now out of state most of the time. Reports of a possible bid by Mack for his old seat, Lee said, "are distant."
Lee noted that scandals among elected officials in Lee County have recently become a major problem. In his words, "We've had one county commissioner arrested for drugs, and another on charges of campaign finance violations. And now this."
Lee, who also served as a Republican House member from upstate New York from 1978-82, also recalled how Republicans have historically held "a very low tolerance level for ethics violations" among members of Congress.
He noted that in 2006 Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned from office in less than a week after it became public that he had sent inappropriate text messages to teenage pages in the House.
Like Radel, Foley also pointed to alcoholism as a problem with which he was grappling.
In 2009, Republican Rep. Christopher Lee of New York was gone from office overnight following reports the married congressman solicited a woman on Craigslist and sent her a shirtless photo of himself.
In the case of Radel, a former TV anchorman considered a young talent in his party, the charges are more severe than those that confronted Foley and Christopher Lee, neither of whom was charged with any crime.
House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel told reporters that "members of Congress should be held to the highest ethical standards."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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