Sunday, December 21, 2008

Florida 22: West Seeks 2010 Rematch With Klein

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Retired Lt. Col. Allen West (R) lost his recent challenge to Rep. Ron Klein (D) in Florida’s 22nd district, but his campaign continues. West announced his 2010 candidacy this week.

Despite being heavily outspent and neglected by the national and state Republican parties, West lost to Klein by 10 points, 55 percent to 45 percent, in a terrible environment for Republican candidates and in a district that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won in 2004.

There is definitely resentment between some grass-roots conservatives and the state GOP for its lack of support in the race. But even though Klein is a freshman, he is viewed as a political heavyweight for his fundraising prowess and for knocking off longtime Rep. Clay Shaw (R), 51 percent to 47 percent, two years ago.

Klein spent $2.3 million against West, who managed to raise only $550,000, bringing the Democrat’s two-cycle total spending to $6.5 million.

Even though West announced his intentions early, he may not have the GOP field to himself. For now, everyone is waiting on former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to decide whether he will run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R).

Klein is viewed as a potential Senate candidate, particularly if Bush declines to run. And if Klein leaves the 22nd sistrict open, state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R) is seen as a likely candidate. Incoming state Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) is viewed as a rising star in the party and will be term-limited in 2010, but is unlikely to run for the 22nd district.

If Klein seeks re-election to his Congressional seat, it’s difficult to see national and state Republicans making a significant financial investment in the race unless the national mood changes significantly.

West served in Iraq as a battalion commander of the 4th Infantry Division, and later worked for a private company training officers in Afghanistan’s army.

In 2003, West was accused of using improper methods when interrogating an Iraqi policeman whom West believed had information about a potential attack on him and the troops under his command.

He was facing a court martial and up to 11 years in prison, but after a military hearing, West was fined $5,000 and allowed to retire with full pension after 20 years of service. Rep.-elect Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a former teacher at the U.S Military Academy at West Point, described West as a living textbook when it comes to the rules of engagement.

This story first appeared on on December 17, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.