With his Democratic challenger in tow, Congressman Allen West is kedging his way up Florida’s, “Treasure Coast,” in search of a friendlier port. Having lost Republican strongholds Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens to redistricting, West is setting sail from his home district in Florida’s 22nd precinct, and dropping anchor at Port St. Lucie’s new 18th CD; a far more suitable political climate for incumbent Republicans. Stalking him up the Atlantic seaboard, West’s 29 year-old Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy has all hands on deck. A former Jupiter CPA, Murphy received the backing of DNC Chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and is endorsed by former Republican Governor of Florida Charlie Crist.
Bringing its total to 27, Florida picked up an additional two seats after the 2010 Census. And while much hay has been made of West seeking higher ground, the entire Panhandle has been shaken like one giant Congressional Etch-a-Sketch, with representatives swapping, shuffling, scuttling and settling into what they think will be more favorable districts. Before the maps were redrawn, Republicans held all but six seats; Democrats hope to chip that down to five, possibly four seats, with a net pick-up of four themselves, and targeting West is key to that outcome.
Wasserman-Schultz, formerly of CD 20, is now running in the 23rd, switching districts with Democrat Representative Alcee Hastings; she faces Sarah Palin backed candidate, Karen Harrington-this is Harrington’s second run at the seat. Representative Frederica Wilson, who filled the vacant seat left open by former Representative Kendrick Meek when he took a stab at the U.S. Senate in 2010, is leaving the old 17th, home of Trayvon Martin, and is running unopposed in the 24th–getting her hands on an ample amount of hat boxes to make the move remains her biggest challenge. Congressman Tom Rooney is vacating the 16th, and running for a third term in Wilson’s old district, while (stay with me) Republican Vern Buchanan, representing Florida’s 13th, will try and fill Rooney’s old seat. West lost his original bid for Congress in 2008, 55-45, to incumbent Ron Klein. In the 2006 Democratic tide election, Klein unseated 13 term Congressman Clay Shaw, and in 2010, lost to West by 10 points. After West announced he was leaving the 22nd, former State Representative and Majority Leader under Marco Rubio, Adam Hasner, dropped his bid for U.S. Senate, and is competing for West’s old seat against former West Palm Mayor, political veteran, Democrat Lois Frankel.
Originally slated to face West in the coastal 22, Murphy followed him North, likely to avoid a bruising primary against Democratic heavyweight, Frankel. Both Murphy and West are expected to survive each of their August 14 primary run-offs. West faces Martin County Sheriff, Bob Crowder, whose Republican bonafides were called into question when he endorsed Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Governor Rick Scott. Murphy squares off against a pair of weak challengers, political newcomer Jerry Beuchler, and Jim Horn, who ran an unsuccessful campaign in CD 16 against incumbent Tom Rooney. As a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s, “Red to Blue” program, Murphy’s bid to oust West is well funded and a top priority for Democrats in this year’s election cycle. Last week, Murphy announced the creation of a new Web-site called, “What West Said,” seizing on some of West’s more provocative remarks, like his recent comment stating his belief that, “Social Security Disability is a form of modern, 21st Century slavery;” hitching his star to a contest with West has been a fundraising boon. And while Murphy is putting up some decent numbers, that knife cuts both ways; as despised as he is by Democrats, West, a decorated Army officer, is a Tea Party favorite, and with a little over $3 million at the ready, his cash on hand eclipses Murphy’s entire fundraising budget by $1 million. Annihilating his opponent’s Twitter presence, West updates 68,000 followers, compared with Murphy’s paltry list of 1,200. With his campaign Web-site ranked a full point above Murphy by Google at 4/10, West’s viral capacity to control his on-line messaging, organize volunteers, and boost fundraising is far more substantial.
A newly released Quinnipiac Poll of three critical swing states, has President Obama out in front of Governor Romney in Florida by six percentage points at 51-45. Senator McCain carried Florida’s 16 by five points in 2008; parts of the old 16 are rolled up into the new 18, where Murphy and West are running. Nearly mirroring his state-wide numbers, Obama picked up District 18 by a margin of two points, winning it 51-49. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Republican incumbent in 18; she’s picking up stakes and running in the newly formed 27th Congressional District.
As vice president of his father’s company, “Coastal Environmental Services,” Murphy brings a business acumen; at the heart of the district, in Port. St. Lucie, unemployment is a full two points above the 8.3% national average. West is a cunning, colorful, often controversial Congressman. He’s an experienced commander with national appeal, and he’s a Tea Party icon. Some local numbers had the race at R+1. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it safe for Republicans, while The Cook Report calls it a toss-up. An internal poll conducted by the Murphy campaign has Romney up over Obama with a three point lead, and calls the race between Murphy and West tied at 45-45. Sloughing off those numbers, West campaign manager, Tim Edson responded in a Post on Politics article, calling the numbers, “pathetic,” saying, “if he’s going to concoct poll numbers, he should at least show himself in the lead.”