As freshman congressman Allen West fights for a second term, he’s facing a surprisingly strong challenge from a Democratic newcomer in one of the most vicious races in the country.
West, a tea party favorite, currently represents Florida’s 22nd District., which covers parts of coastal Palm Beach and Broward counties. But after redistricting he’s moved north to run in the 18th District, which includes Martin and St. Lucie counties and parts of northern Palm Beach County.
The 51-year-old veteran of Desert Storm and the Iraq war is facing Democrat Patrick Murphy, a 29-year-old businessman who works for his family's environmental cleanup business.
A conservative firebrand, West has made national headlines for his controversial comments, but Murphy contends he is so extreme he is an embarrassment. The Democrat’s ads have highlighted comments in which West referred to Social Security as “a form of modern, 21st-century slavery,” castigated Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as "vile" and "not a lady,” and complained that progressive women were “neutering American men.”
|Allen West (AP Photo)
"When you're spending your time calling people communists or comparing them to Nazis or Marxists, that's no way to get things done," the Democrat said during a debate last week.
"I got into this race in large part because I'm tired of the extremism of the tea party," added Murphy, a former Republican.
West shot back in typical fashion. "I thought we lived in America, where we have freedom of speech and freedom of expression," he said. "I'm not going to be afraid of people just because they get upset at some of the things that are said."
West makes it clear that he believes he is fighting for the future of the country. He told one interviewer, "It’s about two different ideologies going forward. It’s the opportunity society against the dependency society. It’s the constitutional republic against a socialist egalitarian nanny state. Is it going to be are we empowering the entrepreneurial sense of the American people or are we going to be enslaved to a federal government?"
The television ads and rhetoric have become so nasty that the South Florida Sun Sentinel said voters in the district "might need a toxic clean-up of the same order" as Murphy's family firm provided in the Gulf after last year's BP oil blowout.
The paper called the race, "one of the nastiest, costliest and most crucial Congressional battles in the country."
|Patrick Murphy (AP Photo)
A new attack ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slams West for claiming he did not vote for a $716 billion cut to Medicare.
But not all the attacks have come from the Democrat’s supporters. A West ad points out that Murphy was arrested following a bar brawl – although the incident happened when Murphy was just 19.
A lot of money is being poured into this campaign. West has raised $15 million this election season, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared to $3.3 million for Murphy. But both sides have gotten a lot of support from outside groups, which have spent millions of dollars on the contest.
One ad that many found offensive was produced by the American Sunrise, a pro-Democrat super PAC. It depicted the African-American Republican punching an elderly white woman, then laughing as he steals money from a black family.
Some polls have shown West with as much as a nine-point lead, while others have found Murphy closing in on the incumbent.
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