The fight for Florida’s 22nd congressional district is shaping up to be one of the most closely watched and expensive elections in the country. Again.
District 22 covers a long strip along South Florida's eastern shoreline. Most of this swing district runs from the northern edge of Palm Beach County (which is Democrat-dominated) down to just north of Hollywood in Broward County, which also leans Democratic. Overall, Democrats hold a slight voter registration advantage.
However, tentacle-like portions of the district reach inland to pick up GOP-leaning areas, such as Parkland and Palm Beach Gardens. It was those areas that turned out heavily in 2010 to elect Tea Party favorite Allen West.
In just seven months in office, West has become a magnet for controversy. He earned national criticism for an aggressive email he sent to a colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. In his message, he called Wasserman Schultz — the current chair of the Democratic National Committee — "vile, unprofessional, and despicable," "a coward," "characterless" and "not a Lady." He demanded that she "shut the heck up."
Comments like that — combined with rumors of waning support from West's tea party base because of his recent vote to raise the debt ceiling, as well as possible changes to West's district that could come when the state Legislature convenes next year — mean West will have to campaign aggressively against the two Democratic candidates already angling to take his seat.
The retired lieutenant colonel, however, is no stranger to tough campaigns.
West’s ugly (and expensive) fight in 2010 against his Democratic opponent, incumbent Ron Klein, was considered one of the most heated elections in the country. During the race, the candidates exchanged personal insults and even threatened violence. West eventually beat Klein in 2010 by 10 percent.
As West gears up for his first reelection campaign, he is by far the most well-funded candidate. In the second quarter of this year, West raised $1.5 million — more than both his Democratic opponents combined. Businessman Patrick Murphy raised an impressive $450,000 this past quarter; former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel followed closely behind by adding $440,000 to her war chest.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has provided West special financial help for his reelection through the committee’s “Patriot Program.” The program is described as “a tough-love incumbent protection effort designed to assist freshmen and a few longer-serving lawmakers expected to face difficult paths to reelection.”
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