Amy Wegmann steps back into public spotlight to support embattled husband
Former 4 news anchor calls Trey Radel "awesome"
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The wife of embattled Southwest Florida congressman Trey Radel is stepping back into the public spotlight to support him.
For the first time since the congressman's guilty plea to a cocaine charge in November, his wife, Amy Wegmann, appeared publicly with him Thursday night.
Wegmann, a former news anchor at Fox 4, held his hand as they walked into his Cape Coral office where he held a press conference.
During the press conference, Radel, a Republican who represents Lee and part of Collier County in the House of Representatives, announced he had left the Naples addiction facility where he'd spend the past 28 days.
He also vowed to stay in office, despite calls from state and county Republican leaders who say he shoud resign.
Reporters asked Wegmann, who actively campaigned for her husband, what she had to say to Southwest Floridians,
"I don't have to say much to say," said Wegmann.
"He's an amazing man."
"I'm here supporting him," she added.
Wegmann went on to make it clear that her embattled husband had her full support.
"I stand by Trey, because I do support him 100%."
"I love him, unconditionally," she said as she glanced at her husband.
"He's a great man, he's a great father, he's a great husband."
"We've been together for ten years, and he's been awesome," she said.
Wegmann was asked when she first learned of her husband's drug troubles.
"Um, I think that, you know, we have private conversations in our marriage," she said.
"And I'm sure if you're married, you have private conversations too," Wegmann added as she looked out on the roomful of local jouranlists - many of whom she worked with as an associate producer at WINK-TV and later as a reporter and anchor at Fox 4 News.
"And I'm just going to leave it at that," Wegmann concluded.
When her husband declared his candidacy for Congress last year, Wegmann took a leave of absence from her job as news anchor at Fox 4.
She and their new baby, Jude, were featured prominently in Radel's campaign website.
Wegmann appeared at Radel's side at campaign events and also make solo appearances on his behalf.
When Radel's campaign ran into headwinds involving his purchase of explicit, sexually themed domain names and domain names of his GOP primary opponents, his campaign released a series of political ads featuring Wegmann.
The ads appeared aimed at parlaying Wegmann's popularity as a news anchor into political capital for her husband.
"I'm Amy Wegmann," she began in one ad.
"I'm usually telling you the news, so this is kind of new for me," she said in the ad.
The ad showed Wegmann looking into the camera saying her husband was the victim of "false attacks" - an apparent reference to his fellow Republican opponents' criticisms of his decision to buy domains that featured their names.
One opponent called Radel's moves typical "Washington sleaze."
"They made a mess in Washington and Trey wants to clean it up," Wegmann said in the ad.
A number of local political watchers saw Wegmann as crucial in Radel's campaign - both by adding her well known name to his in a crowded primary field and by reassuring voters that Radel was a good guy - more of a victim of the "domaingate" scandal rather than the cause of it.
Radel went on to the win the GOP primary in August of 2012.
The primary win was largely considered a guaranteed trip to Congress for Radel since District 19 - which includes all of Lee county and part of Collier county, has traditionally leaned heavily Republican.
Wegmann left Fox 4 after her husband defeated his Democratic opponent, Jim Roach, in the general election in November of that same year.
In an interview that aired on Fox 4 during the family's first months in Washington, Wegmann said she was a part of her husband's stated mission to serve the public.
"I'm part of that, we're a unit," she told Fox 4 anchor Kelli Stegeman.
Wegmann made no mention of Washington as she appeared with her husband Thursday night.
She also seemed to bristle when a reporter asked why she was "notably absent" during Radel's previous appearances since the scandal broke - most notably when he went to court in November to enter the guilty plea and in a press conference he held afterwards.
At the time, Wegmann released a written statement saying she was proud of her husband for seeking treatment and asked for privacy.
"Noticably absent?" said Wegmann Thursday night.
"I have a two year old who I was tending to," she said referring to their toddler son.
Wegmann acknowledged the smiling family featured in so many campaign ads has had its share of challenges.
"We've had struggles in life as do many people," said Wegmann.
But she concluded with a statement that sounded more like the cheerleader role she played on the campaign trail
"I'm actually really hopeful and excited about the bigger, better, stronger Trey," said Wegmann.
"And a bigger better stronger marriage, you know."