Republicans Gear Up to Challenge Trey Radel in Primary

Radel pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Florida Republicans are gearing up for challenges against Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., who pleaded guilty in November for cocaine possession.

Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel officially announced his campaign on Tuesday for the 19th District, and another potential candidate, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, signaled she might also test the waters.

Benacquisto is airing a biographical television ad unusually early for her uncompetitive state House re-election bid, according to the local NBC affiliate. Benacquisto had not filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, according to online records.

Kreegel alluded to Radel's October arrest in a Tuesday news release announcing his candidacy.

Kreegel promised to be a representative that Floridians "can trust." He also referred to "the partisan bickering, frat boy house-style leadership, and divisive rhetoric in Washington has become an embarrassment and Southwest Floridians deserve better."

Kreegel lost to Radel in the 2012 GOP primary, when both men ran to succeed former Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla. Kreegel came in third place in a crowded field.

Radel pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and entered a rehabilitation center. Both Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and state GOP Chairman Lenny Curry subsequently called on him to resign, which he declined to do. Radel left a rehabilitation center in mid-December.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.