While he didnt opt for a rematch with Patrick Murphy, Allen West is shaping one of the most high-profile congressional races in the nation.
After closely losing to Murphy in 2012, West has stayed in the political arena but quickly slammed the door on running again for his old congressional seat in 2014. Instead, West has thrown his support behind Ellen Andel for the Republican nomination to challenge Murphy.
West is getting more active with Andel. He hosted a fundraiser for her back in October and, in the middle of November, formally offered her his endorsement. While West is busy backing conservatives across the nation, he is expected to ramp up his support for Andel in the months to come.
By backing Andel, West is shaping the Republican primary against Murphy. Republicans in Washington and outside groups like Americans for Prosperity are looking to pour money into the race. While there are more Republicans in the district, this is no sure bet. Murphy has tried to stress his moderate credentials and has gone out of his way to keep constituents happy.
Despite the Republican advantages in the district, the primary field lining up against Murphy isnt exactly impressive. While Wests support could turn things around, Andel hasnt done well with fundraising so far. Carl Domino has done better in the money chase but he lost a state Senate primary in 2010 and a state House primary in 2012. Calvin Turnquest did even worse in that same Florida House primary in 2012 than Domino. Alan Schlesinger is best known for his political career in Connecticut. Ilya Katz didnt make much of an impression in 2012 and things arent likely to change in 2014.
Theres talk that Adam Hasner could enter the Republican field despite running for another congressional seat last year. Certainly Republicans at the national level would love for Hasner to enter the contest. But, by backing Andel early, West is standing a bit in Hasners way. While independents and Democrats in the district might have little use for their former congressman, West remains popular with Republicans there, especially conservatives and tea party supporters. If West goes all out for Andel and Domino continues to stress his conservatism and raises money, Hasner would have a tough time in the Republican primary despite his impressive credentials and support.
Republicans still have a chance to defeat Murphy in 2014 though the congressman will be no easy mark. Theres still much drama here and West continues to play a major part in Murphys political career, even if he is not running against him.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.