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Frank Artiles resigns over fury from barroom insults

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TALLAHASSEE - A Miami state senator resigned Friday in the wake of a scandal over insults he hurled at two fellow senators in a private Tallahassee Club.

Republican Sen. Frank Artiles sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announcing his resignation, saying he was doing so to protect his family and the integrity of the legislative chamber.

"My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great state," Artiles wrote. "I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate."

Gov. Rick Scott responded quickly to Artiles resignation while visiting brush fires threatening Golden Gate Estates neighborhoods in east Collier County.

"If he worked for me, I would have fired him," Scott said of Artiles. "It's disgusting. If somebody does that stuff, you fire him immediately."

Black lawmakers from the House and Senate called for Artiles' expulsion after his Monday night tirade against Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. Aritles called Gibson a "bitch" and a "girl," and referred to some of his fellow Republicans using the N-word.

Artiles apologized on the Senate floor Wednesday for the comments he made from the bar inside the private Governor's Club. But that did not settle any outrage. Later that day, Thurston filed a formal complaint against Artiles with Negron, spurring a chamber investigation that was to conclude Tuesday.

Negron had initially said Artiles' apology settled the matter and his fate would be decided by his constituents. On Friday, Negron said he made the right decision.

"As Senator Artiles has noted, he holds himself responsible and accountable for his actions and comments," Negron wrote. "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," Negron said.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, said Artiles made a right and honorable decision.

"I take no pleasure in these unfortunate events," Braynon wrote. "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," Braynon said.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum released the following statement today: "Today's resignation was the right move for Florida. The kind of hurtful rhetoric that Senator Artiles used, while still far too common, only serves to divide us against each other. From every corner of our state, we know that there is a lot more that we share in common than what separates us. Now we must refocus our attention on the issues that can help the most people: creating good paying jobs, reinvesting in public education, and ensuring access to healthcare for all."

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