Allen West was on his best behavior – for Allen West – at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting in Washington. He gave "an unusually tame speech" for a man "known for flinging red meat by the bucket," said the Washington Post. His biggest applause line came from a member of the CPAC audience who shouted, "Allen West for President."
West is a tea party favorite with a well-earned reputation as a rabble-rouser and provocateur. The Freshman Republican represents Florida's 22d district, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, including Boca Raton, and has a sizeable Jewish population, but after the lines were redrawn he decided to run instead in the new 18th north of his present district.
He is not actually a resident of his present district and may not be in the newly adopted one, something a potential primary opponent hinted he might try to exploit.
The nonpartisan Rothenberg Report said: "West is, by any standard, a loose cannon who uses absurdly over-the-top language against his political opponents," adding, it is not out of line to call West a "loud, dangerous, extreme, radical."
One of his most vitriolic attacks was leveled at Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the adjacent district (where West actually lives) and is chair of the Democratic National Committee.
He called her "vile, unprofessional and despicable," "a coward," "characterless" and not a Lady" and demanded she "shut the heck up," Politico and others reported.
That wasn't unusual. He has called Democrats “vile,” “vicious” and “socialist”; compared President Barack Obama to a “third-world dictator,” referred to the U.S. government as a “tyranny” and tosses around Nazi comparisons.
The Hill, the Capitol Hill newspaper, said:
One of the most divisive figures in the Republican Party, West has built a firebrand reputation for lobbing stinging and personal attacks at his rivals, even comparing Democrats to Nazis.
When West said, "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democratic Party," the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned him for "invoking the Holocaust to make a political point."
He is a retired army lieutenant colonel who won a Bronze Star in Iraq but decided to retire after an investigation into his conduct during the interrogation of a detainee.
He is the first black Republican congressman from Florida since 1876 and one of only two African American Republicans in the 112th Congress.
With West out of the 22d, former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner is stepping in. The new district is slightly more Democratic but the Brooklyn-born Republican, who previously represented parts of the area in the state legislature, has at least one thing going for him. "The fact that he is Jewish is also an asset," Rothenberg said. If elected, Hasner would double the number of Jewish Republicans in Congress; currently there is only one, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA).
The Palm Beach Post reported that West may have a primary opponent. Retiring Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder said he is considering running, noting that West is “relocating” and not from the district.
Congressional lines in Florida have not been finalized and may not be before mid-June because of legal challenges.