Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles unleashed a bigoted tirade against his fellow lawmakers earlier this week, in which he reportedly said state Senate President Joe Negron was a "pussy," called two Tallahassee lobbyists "faggots," and used the N-word to refer to six white lawmakers — in front of a black legislator. Earlier this week, he apologized, only to try to fight for his job by continuing to lob insulting letters at his colleagues.
Now he's given up. Artiles officially resigned this morning.
"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," Artiles wrote today in a resignation letter to Negron, which was first published by the Miami Herald. "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 added, "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."
Artiles' resignation will set up a hotly contested special election in the senator's 40th district, which encompasses portions of West Kendall. Residents voted heavily for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and the race will give the perpetually weak Florida Democratic Party a chance to gain an unexpected state Senate seat. The race will also mark a test for newly elected Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, a wealthy real-estate magnate who won a contentious race by pledging to spend heavily on races.
The shameful resignation is, frankly, not that surprising for people who have tracked Artiles' career for more than a handful of months. In the past, he'd been accused of punching a college kid in Gainesville (which he denied); filed a bill that would have discriminated against transgender people and also bankrupted the state tourism economy; attempted to paint his black opponent (and Black Lives Matter organizers) as terrorist sympathizers; and accepted thousands of dollars in free gifts from the state's most powerful electricity company before advancing FPL-friendly bills. He'd also been caught on tape calling Middle Easterners "hajis."
But despite the clear track record of bigotry, those incidents weren't enough to discourage Artiles from running for public office. In 2016, he won a tough election over former Sen. Dwight Bullard after the state's congressional districts were redrawn.
But dropping the N-bomb in a drunken tirade finally led to Artiles' demise. Earlier this week, the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei reported that Artiles launched his alcohol-fueled barrage at Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson, who is black. In response, the entire Florida Democratic Party, the state Senate Black Caucus, the NAACP, the black-rights group Dream Defenders, and multiple newspaper editorial boards, among many others, demanded Artiles' resignation. Even members of his own party, including Gov. Rick Scott, publicly scolded him, but only a small minority actually called for him to give up his seat.
On Wednesday, Artiles issued an apology on the Senate floor. (Gibson did not turn her chair to face him as he spoke.) But after the Senate Black Caucus filed a complaint seeking to forcibly strip Artiles of his position, he hired a lawyer and began sending combative legal letters to his colleagues. His lawyer claimed that his fellow legislators were attacking him for "protected free speech," that multiple people whom Artiles had insulted were prejudiced against him, and that he would not resign because he had heard other lawmakers say similarly insulting things. (He did not explain what exactly he meant by that last comment.)
In the midst of all that chaos, Artiles even had the gall to announce he run for reelection in 2018. That plan appears to be out the window now.
Hilariously, Artiles, who worked tirelessly to protect the rights of big business, anti-gay bigots, and large corporations, claimed in his resignation letter that he spent his time in office challenging the "status quo" in Florida. He also claimed he "stayed true to himself," which is an extremely awful thing to say when you're resigning because you used racial slurs.
"God bless the great state of Florida and our great country," he wrote.
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