Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is officially out of the Florida legislature. Artiles has resigned just days after saying that he would not not step down, and announcing plans to run for re-election. He has been under fire for insulting his colleagues during a not-so-private conversation earlier in the week.
Artiles at first claimed attacks against him were politically motivated, citing his narrow victory in a Miami senate district that voted overwhelmingly for Hilary Clinton. He later attempted to justify his use of the N-Word against fellow Republican senators by saying, "I grew up in a diverse community. We share each other’s customs, culture and vernacular. I realize my position does not allow me, for the looseness of words or slang, regardless of how benign my intentions were.”
That earned a quick response from Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, who was raised in Hialeah.
"My constituents and I would agree that this language is simply unacceptable. Senator Artiles owes the residents of Hialeah an apology for unfairly associating them with this kind of behavior," Garcia said.
The Florida Times Union first reported Artiles went on a rant against Sens. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, Monday night at the exclusive Governors Club in Tallahassee. Artiles was apparently upset about Senate leadership and about questions Gibson asked over one of his bills. Artiles called Gibson a "bitch" and a "girl" and allegedly claimed the only reason Senate President Joe Negron won the presidency was because six Republicans sided with him. He referred to those Republicans as the N-word and called Negron a "pussy".
Artiles was forced to apologize on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, but many viewed that apology as insincere. Shortly after his comments, Artiles said that not only wouldn't he resign, but he would run for re-election in 2018. Thurston filed a complaint against Artiles calling for his removal and triggering an investigation by the Senate Rules Committee.
By Thursday, Governor Rick Scott weighed in, telling the Associated Press, "If I had an employee who said what he said, I would immediately fire him,” and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told Politico Florida Artiles should resign.
Artiles hired Tallahassee Attorney Steven R. Andrews to defend him, and also threatened to depose senators for comments he felt were worse than his own. However, because Artiles was subjected to a rules complaint, none of that was enforceable.
Friday, in a letter written to Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles announced he was resigning.
"It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry. I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow Senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness," he wrote.
But in a more defiant sounding letter released by his spokesman, Artiles once again claimed the outctry against him is political.
“This experience has allowed me to see that for too many years I have sacrificed what I hold most dear in my life, my wife and my two young daughters. While I take full responsibility for using language that was vulgar and inappropriate, my family has fallen victim to a political process that can distort the truth for the sole purpose of political gain," he said in the statement.
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon says Artiles made the right decision.
“I take no pleasure in these unfortunate events. But I urge that we learn from them. In our communities, our state, and our country, there should be a message of hope, of tolerance, of unity. We cannot afford the high cost words of divisiveness and cruelty leave in their wake," Braynon said in a statement.
“I wish Senator Artiles the best, and I hope that, upon reflection, he finds consolation in knowing that his actions, today, show the contrition demanded, and the Senate was owed.”
Now that Artiles has resigned his seat will be filled through a special election. That election must be called within the next 60 days. Negron says he's satisfied with the outcome, and that "all requirements of due process have been followed in this case."
The investigation into Artiles has been dropped by request of Thurston who says he's also satisfied with the outcome.