Few Republican freshmen engender the type of passion among activist on both sides of the political spectrum as Allen West. The Plantation based lawmaker has compiled a hard right voting record full of incendiary remarks in his first term in Congress. West has become a hero of the Tea Party Movement at the same time as he has become a convenient fundraising tool for Democrats. The new Congressional maps (still yet to be approved by the courts) placed West’s Broward County home in a heavily Democratic district (new HD-22) and he opted to move to a more Republican-friendly district, albeit one carried by Barrack Obama in 2008. Florida native Patrick Murphy of Fort Lauderdale abandoned his campaign for the Democratic nomination in HD-22 and moved north with West to continue his challenge.
Murphy is one of the best-funded Democratic challengers in the country. As the most recent recipient of campaign contributions (and the first Democrat) from former Governor Charlie Crist, and with strong backing from many in the impressive network of national democratic fundraisers in southeast Florida, Murphy is on paper a formidable challenger. When you add to this the fact that Murphy fits the district well as a businessman and CPA, and West’s extremism and bombastic personality doesn’t temperamentally fit the Treasure Coast’s history of moderate Republicanism (exemplified by Doc Myers, Mark Foley, Ken Pruitt and others) it is no small wonder Democrats are so upbeat about their opportunity for a giant scalp.
According to his official campaign website:
Patrick Murphy currently serves as Vice President of Coastal Environmental Services, which specializes in disaster relief and environmental cleanup. In 2010, Patrick spent six months in the Gulf of Mexico leading the company’s efforts to remove oil spilled during the BP disaster. Coastal Environmental is an affiliate of Coastal Construction, one of the leading construction firms in the country and has been named one of the nation’s top “Green Contractors”.
Murphy has been strongly backed by former Congressman Robert Wexler and his team of political operatives and consultants. This gives Murphy a strong grounding in a district whose new lines indicate a toss up politically. The district takes in the heavily Republican but moderate and environmental leaning Martin County and St. Lucie County, which has proven to be a swing area in recent elections, and parts of Palm Beach County including the very Democratic condo area Century Village in West Palm Beach. The district also includes several gated communities that have proven to be the decisive vote in recent West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County elections in the area. These gated areas are classic suburban swing neighborhoods.
The overall performance numbers of the district are almost dead even, but in Presidential election years like 2012, it trends more Democratic. Allen West’s brand of fiery conservatism is a bad match for almost any part of southeast Florida outside heavily Cuban-American areas of Miami-Dade County. But West has made a name for himself locally with his outstanding constituent service and attention to local interests. That however was largely done within the areas in West’s old district and he will have to work to establish his credentials in the new district. West has also been mentioned as VP possibility by 2008 GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin, but national ambitions and a national profile won’t help West in this district.
This race will certainly be one to watch this November.