Florida Congressman Allen West today finally figured out what the rest of the country realized two weeks ago: He lost the election.
West, who seemed to court controversy and attention by saying stunningly outrageous things on a seemingly weekly basis, suffered this final indignity: After pushing for a recount for two weeks, he learned that his opponent, Patrick Murphy, actually widened his margin of victory by 200 votes when the recount was done.
West conceded defeat this morning, saying in a statement, “While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election.”
Thus ends one of the strangest two-year terms any Congressman has ever had in the House.
West, 51, is one of only two black Republicans in the House. He had a constant string of headline-grabbing statements, from calling a majority of congressional Democrats communists to saying President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and others should “get the hell out of the United States.” He said Obama was a “low-level Socialist agitator” and called Obama supporters “a threat to the gene pool.” He said as many as 81 House Democrats were members of the Communist Party, although he never identified them.
He even raised the ire of the Congressional Black Caucus for delivering Chick-fil-A chicken and biscuits to their weekly meeting, then walking out. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings said he has no doubt that West meant the gesture as an “in your face” challenge to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. West, the only Republican member of the CBC, had made statements in support of the restaurant chain and its president Dan Cathy, who is a vocal opponent of gay marriage and has contributed money to fight it.
In July, West twice in two weeks used the word “slavery” to describe what he said President Obama and the Democrats are doing to Americans who are increasingly dependent on government assistance.
Fueled by the Tea Party, West had actually compiled one of the largest campaign chests in Congress, raising more than $17 million for his run against Murphy, who raised $4 million himself from donors across the country alarmed and disgusted by West’s antics.
Controversy has followed West even before he started his political career. West spent 22 years in the Army and was a battalion commander during the Iraq war, but he was relieved of his command in 2003 and fined $5,000 after firing a gun near an Iraqi man’s head during an interrogation.
The state of Florida actually certified Democrat Murphy as the winner on Saturday, following a recount of early ballots that put Murphy far enough ahead of West to avoid another automatic recount. But West refused to concede the race. He demanded a recount after the swing of votes on election night in which he was leading Murphy by roughly 2,000 votes, then trailed by 2,400 votes about 35 minutes later.
“I am deeply troubled by the voting procedure issues emanating from St. Lucie County,” West wrote on his Facebook page. “It is unconscionable to me to witness what is transpiring before our eyes.
“This is not about who gets a congressional seat, because it belongs to the people. This is about preserving the integrity of the voting process and the fundamental right to free and honest elections, because it is for that which I, and all veterans, have risked our lives.”
While he conceded, West said he still had doubts about the accuracy of the election results in Florida’s 18th Congressional district but that “our legal team does not believe there are enough over-counted, undercounted or fraudulent votes to change the outcome of the election.”
Murphy, 29, who branded West as a divisive right-wing extremist during the campaign, issued a statement on Tuesday saying, “I appreciate Congressman West’s gracious concession today.
“I am truly humbled that the voters of the 18th district have entrusted me to represent them in Washington.”