U.S. Rep. Trey Radel’s departure from Congress will be one for the record books — as one of the shortest stints ever for a U.S. Congressional representative from Florida.
Radel’s letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner marked a complete reversal for the Republican from Fort Myers, who faced overwhelming pressure to leave Capitol Hill by many in Florida’s GOP after his arrest in November for cocaine possession in Washington D.C.
After attending a Naples rehab center for substance abuse and repeated insistence he would not step down, Radel finally relented Monday and left office after only 389 days.
A Smart Politics study found that of the 132 Floridians that have served in the U.S. House of Representatives, Radel had the second shortest tenures in office.
That record was surpassed by only one person — Silas Niblack, who left Congress 141 years ago after successfully contesting the state’s at-large 1870 Election.
Five other freshmen Florida Representatives took office on January 3, 2013: Republicans Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis, along with Democrats Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, and Patrick Murphy.
All five are continuing to hold office — at 390 days and counting.
Niblack, the record holder, entered Congress under exceptional circumstances.
In 1870, during Florida’s fourth U.S. House election since the end of the Civil War, Niblack, a conservative Democrat (veteran of the Confederacy and former slave owner) faced African-American Republican Josiah Walls for the state’s sole at-large seat.
Walls was one of the first black Americans elected to Congress, enjoying a 2.6-point margin of victory. He was seated on March 4, 1871.
Niblack disputed the election, claiming a number of counties inappropriately rejected Democratic ballots.
After nearly two years of fighting, the House Committee on Elections found in favor of Niblack. He was seated on January 29, 1873, serving only 33 days until the end of the term — March 3, 1873.
Before the U.S. House ruled, four candidates, including Walls and Niblack, ran for two-at large seats in the 1872 Election.
Finishing second, Walls then retook his seat in March 1873. Niblack finished third, never to return to Congress.
According to Smart Politics, Radel became the seventh Floridian to surrender his House seat, and only the fifth to do it in the past 12.5 years:
- Republican Joe Scarborough (September 2001)
- Republican Porter Goss (September 2004)
- Republican Mark Foley (September 2006)
- Democrat Robert Wexler (January 2010)
The two other House members to resign since Florida statehood:
- Republican William Purman (January 1875) to serve one term in the Florida House
- Democrat Lex Green resigned near the end of his tenth term in November 1944 to join the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant commander (he already decided he was not running again).