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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – An alcohol-fueled obscenity and racial slur-laced tirade cost a Miami senator his job.
Republican Sen. Frank Artiles officially submitted his letter of resignation on Friday.
— Jim DeFede (@DeFede) April 21, 2017
— Jim DeFede (@DeFede) April 21, 2017
In his resignation letter, Artiles wrote:
“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.”
He adds “It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth.”
Artiles was chastised for using a form of the “n-word” during an exchange with two African-American colleagues Monday night. It happened when he was out with fellow Senators Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville and Perry Thurston from Fort Lauderdale.
Gibson and Thurston said he used the “n-word” word while describing senators who supported Senate President Joe Negron’s rise to power. He also reportedly called Gibson a “bitch.”
Artiles apologized on the Senate floor on Wednesday saying his intention in using those words was benign.
“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and all those I have offended,” said Artiles. “I am sorry for the words and the tone I used with you regretfully Monday night.”
The apology was not enough. Several rallies were held on Thursday, including one in front of Artile’s District 40 office in southern Miami-Dade, demanding his resignation.
“This swift action just shows the power that we have when we come together as one,” said Pastor Theo Johnson of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church.
One of the groups that demanded his resignation a day before, celebrated the move the next day.
“He said he was not going to resign but there are higher powers at work,” said Alfonso Jackson with the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights.
Sen. Gibson issued a statement following the resignation announcement saying, “I would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of support. This has been an ordeal that no one should have to endure. I wish him well in all of his endeavors.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was more forceful after he learned of the resignation.
“If he worked for me and for the private sector and he said those things, I would have immediately fired him. You should not talk derogatory about people like that. There should not be any racist comments,” said the governor.
Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz said Artiles is a good man who made a mistake.
“I’ve known Sen. Artiles for almost two decades. He’s a good person. He’s not a bad person. He made a mistake. He’s atoned for that mistake and he’s paying the price for that mistake,” said Diaz.
Others said Artiles needed to step down after the incident.
“He needed to get out. There is no place in our legislature, in our state, in our democracy for that kind of racist, sexist, hateful language,” said Florida Democratic Party Spokeswoman Johanna Cervone.
“I’m glad he stepped forward and done the responsible thing and decided to resign,” said former state Sen. Dwight Bullard who lost his seat to Artiles.
Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall is a current Miami-Dade School Board member and former state legislator who roomed with Sen. Gibson. She was thrilled to hear Artiles stepped down.
“Black women are not to be dismissed. Why would you call her the ‘b word?’ We’re college educated. We know what that means. It is not acceptable,” she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, wrote, “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.
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.”
With the resignation, residents of Artile’s district will have no Senate representation in the last two critical weeks of the legislative session. Gov. Scott will have to call a special election to replace Artiles, most likely within the next 60 days.
One of the groups who demanded his resignation said whoever takes his place must speak with the voice of the people.
“Make sure whoever steps into that seat knows that this group of clergy, our group of clergy and parishioners across the state are going to hold them accountable to the same standard,” said Bishop Chauncey Brown.
Republicans are confident they’ll keep the seat. But one thing is certain, the constituents vow to keep a close eye.
“Whoever the candidate is, Democrat or Republican, they’re going to have to come through our communities,” said Jackson. “They will not disrespect us by going on without us.”