Sen. Frank Artiles resigned from the Florida Legislature on Friday, consumed by a scandal that erupted three days earlier over a diatribe of insults the Miami Republican unleashed against two lawmakers at a Tallahassee bar.
In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles said he was stepping down for the sake of his family and of the institution of the Senate, whose work ground to a near halt this week as Republican leaders grappled with Artiles’ political future.
“My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State,” Artiles wrote. “I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.
“It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth.”
Negron forced Artiles to apologize on the Senate floor Wednesday for his alcohol-fueled racist and sexist Monday night tirade against Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. But black lawmakers outraged at Artiles for calling Gibson a “bitch” and a “girl” — and for referring to some Republicans as “n---as” — said saying sorry was not enough: They formally sought his expulsion from the Senate.
Negron, whom Artiles had derided in his rant as a “p---y,” ordered an investigation. Artiles, an ex-Marine known for his combative style, hired a sharp-elbowed Tallahassee lawyer and vowed to fight.
But by Thursday afternoon, even Artiles’ friends in the state Capitol, convinced he couldn’t possibly redeem himself, had begun to say privately that Artiles had to go. The most evident sign of his looming exit: Political hounds started chatting about his competitive southern Miami-Dade seat soon becoming open.
“Frank has acted honorably in his decision, and my prayers are with him as he moves on from this process,” future House Speaker Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes, a longtime Artiles friend, said in an interview Friday morning.
Friends of Artiles, who spent the last few days outside of the Capitol seeking their counsel, said he had been angry and indignant at what he saw as a double standard: colleagues whose own behavior in his mind has not risen to the standards they held him to.
His initial reaction was to defend himself. He hired one of Tallahassee’s most feared lawyers, Steven R. Andrews, whose reputation as an opposition researcher and his ability to use public records to fight political battles has extracted settlements from those he has sued, including Gov. Rick Scott.
In a Thursday letter to Negron, Andrews asked that an independent prosecutor with no association with the Senate be named to conduct the investigation. Then, in what appeared to be an overt threat, he twisted the knife, naming the senators whom Artiles would call to answer questions under oath.
But the Senate process does not allow for Artiles to question lawmakers, and Negron simply overlooked the letter, ordering Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts to continue her investigation as planned.
Artiles, a former state representative, was elected in November to District 40 in Southwest Miami-Dade County. With his resignation, his constituents will have no Senate representation for the last two critical weeks of the annual lawmaking session.
Gov. Scott would have to call a special election to replace Artiles, probably within the next 60 days.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday after he apologized, Artiles said then that he had no intention of resigning.
“If every time a senator made a mistake or someone made a mistake that they were going to resign, we’d have half the Senate gone for whatever reason,” he said.
Asked a second time, Artiles dug in his heels: “Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m not only [not] going to resign, but I’m also going to file for 2018 and win my election.”
Herald/Times reporters Michael Auslen, Steve Bousquet, Kristen M. Clark and Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report.
Read Artiles’ resignation letter
April 21, 2017
Dear President Negron,
Seven years ago, I began my public service with one goal in mind, and that was to serve a cause greater than my own.
Serving my constituents and improving their lives is why I serve. On many important issues, caring for the elderly, education and job creation, I have made it my personal mission to put others first. It’s the way I was raised, and the way I still choose to live my life today.
As a Marine, this attitude was embodied in our motto: Semper Fidelis, or “Always Faithful.” Be faithful to God, to country and to our fellow soldiers.
As a father and husband, despite the daily demands of elected office, I always keep the promises that I make to my two beautiful daughters, Bella and Giavanna, and my loving wife Aimee. I’m a fulfilled man, because of their unconditional love and support.
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.
My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State.
I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.
It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth.
I leave this office knowing that despite my shortcomings, I have fought hard to change the status quo while remaining true to myself. I’m grateful for those that have stood by my side, including my family, friends, and supporters.
Serving my community in the Florida Legislature has been the honor of a lifetime and I do not leave this process lightly. I will discover ways to continue to serve my community in the future.
God bless the great state of Florida and our great country.
Senator Frank Artiles