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Inside the #treydome

By Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN
updated 9:35 AM EST, Thu November 21, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Florida congressman is in the spotlight because of a cocaine possession charge
  • He loves hip-hop and interacting with constituents via Twitter
  • After October 29, when he was charged, his Twitter feed took a more serious tone

Washington (CNN) -- Trey Radel loves hip-hop. He is an avid user of Twitter. His real name is Henry Jude Radel III. He represents parts of the southwest Florida coast in Congress. He said he came to Congress to do "the right thing."

He also just pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession and is taking a leave of absence to seek substance abuse treatment.

"I have no excuse for what I have done. I have let down our country," he said at a news conference Wednesday night back home in his district in Cape Coral, Florida.

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The former local news anchor-turned conservative talk show host said he came to Washington to represent conservative ideals but also reach across the aisle.

"I spent my first two weeks here in Congress reaching out to every Florida Democrat to go shake their hand and say: 'I'm not here to yell out you. I'm not here to name call. I'm here to work with you,'" he said in an interview with National Journal in August.

In that same interview, he said he had Valentine's Day dinner with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a fellow Floridian but also head of the Democratic National Convention.

Easily winning his district -- which has the lowest percentage of Democrats in all Florida and consists of Fort Myers and Naples -- with 61% of the vote, the Republican congressman has been in office for less than a year.

The 37-year-old husband and father of one toddler appeared to be having a great time in Washington. On Twitter, he posted pictures and Vines of himself around the U.S. Capitol with the hashtag #treydome.

His Twitter followers loved him. During one of his frequent flights, he reviewed the SkyMall magazine on Twitter. Pictures of the products included his commentary. For one product to treat animal anxiety, Radel tweeted, "For dogs n cats w serious anxiety. Every member of congress should have one. #treyonplane."

He would hold impromptu "Twitter Townhalls" where people tweeted him questions about anything but politics. In one, he referred to two classic rap albums by Public Enemy.

When asked who he'd rather have dinner with, fellow Florida Rep. Corinne Brown, who is a Democrat, or Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Radel said dinner with Brown because he "works with her" but "DRINKS w Nancy."

Radel would often talk about drinks. He was often asked about his favorites in interviews. In an interview with Roll Call, Radel said, "I have yet to have a bad martini in D.C.," he commented. "My favorite is Kettle [sic] One, up with blue cheese stuffed olives shaken by Mary at The Palm."

In a statement addressing his cocaine charge, Radel said he "struggles with the disease of alcoholism" and he's now in treatment.

He has also experienced tragedy. He told National Journal that his mom died at his wedding reception.

"My mom literally died on my wedding reception floor, right after my wife and I were married. It was a freak accident; she choked. There was a paramedic in the room who couldn't save her," he said.

After October 29, the night he was charged with cocaine possession, his Twitter feed became much more serious. There were no more Twitter Town halls or talk about his favorite drinks. Instead, it was filled with thoughts about policy, especially his opposition to Obamacare. He also showed a Vine of him and his son playing with "Toy Story" characters and a picture of him, his wife and son dressed up for Halloween.

On the night he was elected, he told a local news reporter from WINK, the station where he once worked, that "Florida has placed a tremendous amount of trust in me" and that he hopes to be a "spectacular servant" for southwest Florida.

On Wednesday night, at what seemed like a hastily called news conference, Radel said he was taking a leave of absence. He said he was going to seek treatment, that he needed help.

"I believe in faith, forgiveness and redemption," Radel told reporters. "I ask for your prayers and I don't ask for me.... I ask for my family."

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