Florida Republicans have started sizing up the political prospects of freshman Rep. Trey Radel, who said he will not resign after pleading guilty for a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession.
Several potential primary challengers have emerged in Florida's 19th District — which includes Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples — in the last couple days:
- A source told CQ Roll Call former Rep. Connie Mack "is being encouraged to run in the event Radel resigns" but would not confirm if Mack would challenge Radel in a primary. Republicans were floating Mack's name only hours after the news broke of Radel's arrest. Radel succeeded Mack in Congress after the four-term Republican ran for Senate. Even if Mack does not run, the former congressman will play a consequential role and could dissuade other contenders from getting in the race.
- Government relations consultant Chauncey Goss II (son of Porter Goss, a former occupant of the seat) would not rule out a primary challenge on Thursday. He lost the 2012 primary to Radel. "It's way too early to make a decision, and I'm trying to be respectful to him and allow him to sort through things," Chauncey said in a phone interview. "Southwest Florida deserves excellent representation."
- State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is Radel's "GOP primary nightmare," according to the Miami Herald. A message left at her office by CQ Roll Call has not been returned.
- Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel would not rule out a primary challenge, also per The Miami Herald.
On Wednesday, Radel announced he will take of leave of absence from Congress, including time in a rehabilitation facility that could last several weeks.
Any Radel primary challenge likely will not come until later in the cycle. The 2014 filing deadline is in May, and the primary is not until Aug. 26. Additionally, the Fort Myers area television market is not expensive, so candidates do not have to start fundraising immediately. What's more, most of the potential contenders have strong name identification, thanks to previous runs for office.The 2014 filing deadline is in May, and the primary is not until Aug. 26. Additionally, the Fort Myers area television market is not expensive, so candidates do not have to start fundraising immediately. What's more, most of the potential contenders have strong name identification, thanks to previous runs for office.
"Have I been contacted by anyone thinking about it? No, I have not," Terry Miller, GOP chairman of Lee County, a prominent county in the district, said in a Thursday morning interview.
The GOP will likely not risk losing the seat next November, given the district includes strong Republican territory. Mitt Romney carried the district with 61 percent.
The 19th District is rated safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.