A Florida state senator who used a racial slur and vulgar insults during a private, after-hours conversation with two African-American colleagues resigned Friday.
Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who represents District 40 in Miami-Dade, announced that he was stepping down in a letter sent to Senate President Joe Negron.
"My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State," the letter read. "I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate."
The comments happened Monday night during a private conversation with two African-American senators at a members-only club near the Capitol. Artiles used obscenities with Sen. Audrey Gibson, including one particularly offensive to women. Sen. Perry Thurston intervened and Artiles, a Cuban-American from the Miami area, used a variation of the "n-word" and used a vulgarity to describe Negron, according to the complaint filed Wednesday by Thurston.
"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," Artiles wrote. "To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness."
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, reviewed the complaint and found it's likely Artiles' comments and behavior violated Senate rules. The Florida Legislative Black Caucus had asked for Artiles' expulsion.
In a statement Friday, Negron called Artiles' resignation "the right decision" and said Thurston was withdrawing the complaint and the investigation into the matter would be closed.
"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 State 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," Negron said. "My Senate colleagues and I wish Senator Artiles and his family well."
Artiles had apologized Tuesday and gave a three-minute apology on the Senate floor Wednesday.
"I applaud and welcome Senator Artiles’ decision to resign today. It was not only the right decision, but the honorable one, for himself and the people of Florida," Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon said in a statement Friday. "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."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will now set a date for a special election within the next few months to fill the position.
Artiles called serving in the Florida Legislature "the honor of a lifetime" and said he wants to continue to serve the community.
"It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth," Artiles wrote in the letter to Negron. "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."