S. Florida’s West ready to charge Capitol Hill

By Sean Lengell, The Washington Times

Depending on who is asked, Republican Rep.-elect Allen West is either a hothead radical who will chip away at what little civility remains on Capitol Hill, or is an energetic, principled pragmatist who will bring a long-overdue dose of sanity to Washington.

But his sincerity isn’t in question: As supporters and critics alike say when it comes to the South Florida Republican, what you see is what you get.

“There are some candidates who are fairly standard politicians, who adopt the ‘tea party’ rhetoric … and then I think there are some politicians who are really fundamentally more tea party-ist than politician, and I think West fits into that category,” said Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“The rhetoric, he believes.”

Mr. West, a career soldier who retired in 2004 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, defeated Democratic Rep. Ron Klein by almost 9 percentage points in the Nov. 2 congressional elections. His aggressive, take-no-prisoners campaigning won over an electorate eager for change in Washington, and his biography and style made him instantly stand out, even in the massive new GOP freshman class that arrives on the Hill next week.

“People don’t normally get that energized about a candidate,” said University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus. “His military credentials are very impressive, and I think that had a lot to do with it.”

He was aided by a hefty tea party-infused campaign war chest of at least $6 million, which included donations from across the country – funding unavailable during his unsuccessful challenge of Mr. Klein in 2008.

Mr. West far outraised Mr. Klein, who had receipts of almost $3.8 million, in one of the most expensive congressional races in the country.

Klein wasn’t a bad candidate. He just ran into a buzz saw,” Mr. Wagner said.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/27/s-floridas-west-ready-to-charge-capitol-hill/

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