U.S. Representative Allen West, a first-term Republican backed by the Tea Party, conceded his race in Florida to Democrat Patrick Murphy after two weeks of challenging the Nov. 6 election results.
Murphy, 29, a first-time candidate, won by 1,904 votes, or 0.58 percentage point, in a district that includes part of Palm Beach County and two counties to the north. He will be the youngest House member in the next Congress.
“While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change,” West said in a statement.
West’s concession leaves one undecided U.S. House race. In North Carolina, Democratic Representative Mike McIntyre leads Republican challenger David Rouzer by 655 votes of 336,739 cast, according to the state Board of Elections.
Rouzer, a state senator, today requested a recount, in a statement citing the closeness of the race and an “irregularity previously found” in results of one county. If McIntyre’s lead holds, Democrats would gain eight U.S. House seats and Republicans would control the chamber, 234 to 201, for the 113th Congress starting in January.
West, who in April told constituents that about 80 House Democrats were “members of the Communist Party,” and Illinois Representative Joe Walsh were the two most outspoken freshmen Republicans who lost re-election. Walsh stirred controversy and condemnation from doctors last month when he said abortion is “absolutely” never necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.
The losses of the two Tea Party-backed freshmen don’t signal a political setback for their movement, said David Wasserman, a political analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report in Washington.
What’s most significant is “there are more Tea Partiers who are newly coming to Washington than exiting,” Wasserman said. “All over the country there are new Republicans who, while they may not be as vociferous or provocative as Allen West and Joe Walsh, they will be greater in number.”
Wasserman cited three newly elected lawmakers, Trey Radel and Ron DeSantis from Florida and Robert Pittenger in North Carolina, who “won primaries running as the most conservative” Republican.
West, 51, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one of two black Republicans in the House, raised about $17 million, more than any candidate for the chamber except Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. Murphy, vice president of a unit of his family-owned Coastal Construction Group Inc. of South Florida, raised $3.68 million.
West had contested the results of his election, which were outside the margin required for an automatic recount. He accused the St. Lucie County elections office of missteps in counting ballots.
St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker said her office double-counted some ballots and didn’t count others on election night. The office agreed to a partial recount, in which West picked up 535 votes. As the recount continued in the county, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, Murphy gained votes.
The contest was one of about two dozen toss-ups this year in the 435-member House, according to the Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report, Washington-based nonpartisan newsletters that analyze elections.
Murphy said West’s concession was “gracious.”
“I campaigned on a message of reaching across the aisle to get things done,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am excited and honored to get to work.”
The race in one of Florida’s most evenly divided districts was a test of whether the tactics used by the Tea Party in 2010 would work for incumbents, and whether a re-election campaign could be won with scant direct contact with voters. West held few public events and made little face-to-face contact with voters less than a month before Election Day, opting instead for advertising broadsides against Murphy.
One of West’s TV ads included Murphy’s mug shot from a 2003 arrest on charges, later dropped, of disorderly intoxication and possessing a fake driver’s license. The picture was set against one of West in military fatigues.
To contact the reporters on this story: Michael C. Bender in Tallahassee at email@example.com; James Rowley in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com