Monday, September 27, 2010

Tea party favorite Allen West
gunning for Ron Klein's seat

From Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times on Sept. 27:
DEERFIELD BEACH — Allen West ended a military career and launched a political one in the most unusual of ways. He threatened to kill a man.

It happened on Aug. 20, 2003, a hot, dusty night in Iraq. Demanding information about a possible ambush on U.S. troops, Army Lt. Col. West backed up the threat by firing his 9mm Beretta near a detainee's head.

Months later, West stood at a military hearing, wiping away tears. "If it's about the lives of my men and their safety," he said, "I'd go through hell with a gasoline can."

At his campaign headquarters in a strip mall in Deerfield Beach, West said the ordeal was the foundation for his decision to run for Congress. Thousands of people across the United States rallied behind him at the time, setting off a debate about war conduct that continues today.

"He should have gotten a medal," said Tim O'Neill, who showed up to hear West speak at a candidate forum in Pompano Beach last week. "I admire what he did in the military, but I like his politics even more."

West, 49, is challenging two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, and has turned his national notoriety — and an endorsement from Sarah Palin — into a fundraising juggernaut, collecting more than $4 million.

Polls show a neck-and-neck race, but by even getting this far, West underscores the headwinds working against Democrats in the midterm elections. Knocking off Klein would be major as Klein himself was a giant killer in 2006 by defeating 26-year Republican House veteran Clay Shaw.

Convention holds that a moderate Republican would run strongest against Klein, 53, whose Democrats have the smallest of advantages in voter registration. "What are the principles of a moderate?" West scoffed.

He tears into the health care law, the stimulus and says voters were "tricked" into electing Barack Obama. He mocks "co-exist" bumper stickers. Klein, he says, is a "pathetic liberal."

In one of the many videos of him on YouTube, est shouts into a megaphone at a July 4th rally wearing sunglasses, an American-flag bandana and a tight yellow shirt bearing a coiled snake — the adopted symbol of the tea party.

"If we sit complacent and if we don't pay attention to what's going on right now, we will find ourselves once again becoming slaves to a tyrannical government. You cannot stand down. You cannot stop being vigilant. And just as this T-shirt says ... we must tell this government, 'Don't tread on me.' "


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