Frank Artiles has resigned his Senate seat rather than face a hearing that could result in his expulsion, according to a letter he sent to Senate President Joe Negron Friday.
Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami-Dade County, made national news after he accosted Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, calling her a “b****h” and a “girl” in a dispute over legislation at a private club in Tallahassee Monday night. Thurston and Gibson are black.
Artiles also used a slang variation of the ‘N-word,’ referring to white Republicans who supported Joe Negron as Senate President. Thurston and Gibson are black. Artiles apologized on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Thurston subsequently filed a Senate rules complaint against Artiles seeking his expulsion. Artiles, elected to the Senate last year after six years in the House, had initially called efforts to remove him politically motivated.
Gibson, in a brief statement released by the Senate Democratic Office, “thank(ed) everyone for their outpouring of support.”
“This has been an ordeal that no one should have to endure,” said Gibson, who kept her back turned to Artiles when he delivered his apology. “I wish him well in all of his endeavors.”
In the resignation letter mentioning his Marine service and crediting his family’s support, he said it was “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,” he concluded, signing off, “Sincerely, Senator Frank Artiles.”
In a separate statement, Negron said Artiles “made the right decision.”
“As Senator Artiles has noted, he holds himself responsible and accountable for his actions and comments,” Negron, a Stuart Republican. “Despite the events of the last week, Senator Artiles has a long and proud record of public service. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for serving our country in the United States Marine Corps, where he fought for our freedom in the Global War on Terror.
“Additionally, his years of service in the Florida House and Senate demonstrate a commitment to helping others that will not end with his departure from the Senate. My Senate colleagues and I wish Senator Artiles and his family well.”
Negron added that Thurston will withdraw his complaint and he “directed the (Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts) to close her investigation. No further action by the Senate will be taken in regard to this matter.”
On Thursday, Gibson had told reporters Artiles’ tirade was “horrific.”
“No one has ever addressed me in such a manner in my entire life,” she said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “I’ve never heard such nasty comments about leadership in my entire life and really denigrating the entire Senate as far as I’m concerned and the constituencies around the state.”
In an interview with The Florida Channel, she added, “I need to feel, and I have the right to feel, as comfortable as he does in that body, to which I was elected. And I don’t know that I could do that with him there.”
Artiles could not be reached. A message was left with his attorney, Steve Andrews of Tallahassee, on Friday morning. Artiles reportedly told colleagues he feared he wouldn’t have the support he needed to avoid a vote of expulsion from the Senate, to which he was elected last year after serving six years in the House.
In a statement, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II “welcomed” Artiles’ decision to leave the Senate.
“It was not only the right decision, but the honorable one, for himself and the people of Florida,” said Braynon, of Miami Gardens.
“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 (that) 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.”
The full resignation is below: