Embattled Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Kendall, announced his formal resignation from the Florida Senate Friday afternoon after verbally attacking a fellow senator with profane comments and a racial slur earlier this week.
“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 in his resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron Friday morning. "I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida Senate. It's clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth."
Artiles addressed his constituents and those close to him, apologizing for his actions.
"I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all my fellow Senators and lawmakers,” Artiles said. “To the people of my district of all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness."
See Artiles' formal resignation letter below.
Negron accepted the resignation, saying it was the correct move.
“Senator Artiles made the right decision," the Stuart Republican said in a statement. "As Senator Artiles has noted, he holds himself responsible and accountable for his actions and comments."
Sen. Audrey Gibson, the object of Artiles' outburst, issued a short statement on his resignation. "I would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of support," she wrote. "This has been an ordeal that no one should have to endure. I wish him well in all of his endeavors."
The news comes three days after Artiles came under fire for verbally attacking Gibson, D-Jacksonville, using the "n-word" and other vulgarities at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee Monday evening.
Stepping down is a sigh of relief for Republicans, who have entered into crisis mode since the story broke, rocking Tallahassee from the moment it went public.
Artiles' resignation "would be good for all involved,” a political consultant close to the players involved told Sunshine State News Friday morning.
Other GOP consultants said they found it astonishing Artiles had managed to anger both sides of the aisle, from Democrats to Republicans, who all called for Artiles' head.
"How the hell do these guys get elected?" asked one. "I refuse to believe we're just that good."
Sources described mass chaos in the Florida Capitol as Republicans tried to manage the situation as it unfolded.
According to the Miami Herald, Artiles was heard to use the word "niggers," at the exclusive Governor's Club, though he claims he really had said "niggas," which he called a harmless slang-term. The Herald also reported Artiles referred to Gibson as "this bitch" and "girl" and told Gibson and black caucus chairman Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, that Negron (whom Artiles called "a pussy") had become Senate president because he got votes from "six niggers" in the Republican caucus.
On Wednesday morning, Artiles addressed the full Senate, confirming the Herald's story. He publicly apologized to both Sens. Gibson and Thurston, who had been sitting at the same table as Gibson when Artiles made the remarks at the Governor's Club.
Thurston said he "welcomed the news" of Artiles' resignation.
"We regret that this action was necessary, but we believe it was the right action to take," Thurston said in a statement Friday. "It was surely a difficult decision for the Senator to make, but we believe he followed his conscience and made the right choice. The actions of this Senate, and those of the multitude of Floridians who stood up in objection to the events of this week are to be lauded. They underscored the critical lesson that words can be painful, they can be hurtful, and they can have consequences.”
The Senate had previously opened up an investigation into Artiles’ comments after the Black Caucus filed a formal complaint over the matter.
On Wednesday, Senate Rules Committee Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, found probable cause to investigate Sen. Frank Artiles for violating the rules of legislative conduct and is appointing special counsel to investigate the matter. Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts is scheduled to present a report and a recommendation to the committee by April 25.
Artiles said he would fight back against against Roberts representing the Senate, however, and called for an independent counsel to represent that chamber because Roberts has represented Artiles and other witnesses in separate matters.
As the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported Thursday, Artiles' lawyer Steven Andrews "wrote to the Senate lawyer reviewing the case and said the complaint shouldn’t be pursued because Artiles’ statements -- as offensive as they were -- are protected under his constitutional rights to free speech."
The complaint was later closed after Artiles resigned.
Criticisms condeming Artiles' comments poured in from both sides of the aisle.
Negron later told reporters he was "completely satisfied" with how he handled the fallout.
Said Thurston on Friday, "On behalf of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, I welcome the news of Senator Frank Artiles’ resignation today from the Florida Senate.
"We regret that this action was necessary, but we believe it was the right action to take. It was surely a difficult decision for the senator to make, but we believe he followed his conscience and made the right choice. The actions of this Senate, and those of the multitude of Floridians who stood up in objection to the events of this week are to be lauded. They underscored the critical lesson that words can be painful, they can be hurtful, and they can have consequences.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, responding on the matter, called Artiles a "friend" and an "incredible legislator."
"He will always do what's best for the people of Florida," Corcoran said in a statement. "I sincerely hope that as Frank seeks forgiveness and absolution from those hurt by his words, he will be met with forgiveness and a second chance."
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, brought investigation of the matter to a close. “Given Senator Artiles’ decision to resign and Senator Thurston’s decision to withdraw the related complaint, no further action on the part of the Rules Committee is warranted in connection with this matter. I believe Senator Artiles made the right decision for himself and his family, his constituents, and the Florida Senate. I join my Senate colleagues in wishing Frank and his family all the best.”