Allen West, a Tea Party favorite who once called himself a "modern-day Harriet Tubman" who would lead African Americans away from the Democratic Party "plantation," said support for President Obama was "a threat to the gene pool" and went on a perplexing riff about ice cream flavors when asked whether he believed gay people could change their behavior, will officially not be representing Florida in Congress for another term.
He conceded to Democrat Patrick Murphy yesterday after a race whose outcome was uncertain on election night. Two weeks later, after a recount revealed that he'd fallen about 2,000 votes short, campaign aides were reportedly "shocked" by the loss. Here's how Politico explains it:
Some Republicans close to the campaign blamed West's bombastic, no-holds-barred style — an approach they said simply didn't work in what was basically a moderate-minded district full of elderly voters. During his brief tenure in Congress, he dished out insults like candy at Halloween — he called Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz "vile, unprofessional and despicable"; dubbed President Barack Obama "probably the dumbest person walking around in America right now," and said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats "should get the hell out of the United States of America."
Behind the scenes, Republicans were urging West to tone it down. Early this year, shortly after launching his reelection campaign, the congressman sought out a surprising figure — former GOP Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned in 2006 amid revelations that he had sent sexually-charged electronic messages to House pages. Foley, who had represented much of the southwestern Florida district, counseled West to run to the middle — advice the congressman didn't take issue with.
Foley thought highly of West — at one point, he even advised the freshman to run for Senate in 2012, reasoning that his fundraising capabilities and national profile would make him a strong contender. But as Foley watched the House race play out, he saw West embracing much of the same conservative rhetoric that he had in his previous races.
And instead of presenting his compelling life story — West rose from an upbringing in the Georgia slums, eventually becoming a military commander before running for Congress — the Republican seemed intent on tearing down Murphy in harshly personal terms. One West TV ad blasted Murphy for his underage drinking arrest a decade ago, showing a mug shot of the intoxicated then-teenager.
In other black Republican election news, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson is now the official winner in his tight congressional race against Republican Mia Love, who would have been the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican.