It's Not the Murphy Challenge That Makes Allen West 'the Ugliest Republican'
Around the State
Allen West lost more than the election Tuesday night. He lost friends and he lost believers and he showed perhaps the most ardent among his Congressional District 18 faithful that he doesn't deserve them.
Let's forget for a minute whether West should or should not challenge the vote-count irregularities in St. Lucie County.
What I want to do instead is take you back to Election Night 2012 inside the Hutchinson Island Marriott, where the story of West's selfishness and sheer lack of gratitude played out before a party-minded, vote-count-watching crowd of some 500.
The reason I know what happened that night is because I was a fixture in Martin and St. Lucie counties for 28 years. I still know people who live along the Treasure Coast. Some of them still keep in touch. And some of the ones who keep in touch actually attended what was expected to be the Allen West Victory Party.
Attendees were mostly high-end donors to his campaign and/or folks who had worked hard to get him elected in a new district. They were tried and true Republicans.
The party was festive at the beginning, as political victory parties generally are. But, as the night wore on, most in the large ballroom knew the race was closer than they'd hoped and going down to the wire. At well past 11 p.m., most of the West supporters were still waiting for the congressman to show up. They were an enthusiastic group, shouting slogans, sipping drinks, noshing from giant food trays.
"I think my donations paid for this food," quipped Ernesta Myers, Dominican-born widow of an Army colonel. Myers said she deeply disagreed with West's severe immigration stance, "but I thought, nobody has to be fantastic in every way" and besides, "the positives of what he believes and what he stood for far outweighed the negatives."
Investment banker Raymond Cole told me, "If it weren't for the fact that everyone was constantly checking their Blackberries or iPhones, people seemed to be having a lot of fun. But the later it got and the more it looked like our man was going to lose, most of them just hung around waiting to hear from Allen. They wanted to cry with him. They wanted to show him their affection. They wanted him to love them back.
"But he never showed. They couldn't believe it and neither could I," Cole said.
One of West's campaign staff told me, "He was right upstairs the whole time. He just didn't want to come down."
State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, apparently was the GOP authority figure appointed as the go-between, charged with calming the crowd, with running up and down between West's hideaway suite and the ballroom.
"Every little while, as the crowd got more and more restless, Joe would grab the microphone and tell us, 'The congressman is still upstairs monitoring the numbers, he'll be down,'" said Janet McNamara, a Marriott employee working the party that night. "By the time he made the last speech at about 1:30 in the morning, the people who were left were really angry."
West was a total no-show.
Said Myers, "If this recount works out so Allen wins, I'm through with him. Do you know how I see him now? I see the ugliest Republican," she said. "A man who doesn't know how to say thank you is not a leader."
"He wouldn't get my help or even my vote again," Cole said.
I shouldn't have been surprised when West never returned my phone call. As far as I know he's said no to every interview request since the election except one from Fox News.
Allen West says he's going to challenge in court Democrat Patrick Murphy's slim victory over him. Probably he should. Certainly errors were made in the process of registering and counting 37,000 early votes in St. Lucie County on Election Day.
But even if West wins, he has lost.
People on the Treasure Coast know better who he is now. His supporters forgave him for the military decisions he made to avoid a court martial, largely because he was acting in wartime. They chalked up to ardent patriotism the intemperate language he used and the insults he hurled at those who disagree with him. They even forgave him pushing their beloved Congressman Tom Rooney into another district so he could have an easier ride.
What they won't forgive or forget is his ingratitude, his choice not to recognize and acknowledge publicly the people who worked hardest and gave the most to put him in office.
In Martin County, where the motto is "Character Counts," they found Allen West's lacking.
West should have honored his troops. He should have saluted them and showed he meant it. A former military man who wears the ribbons of a hero -- who, in the loom of election defeat, hid away in his room like a coward.
Down Martin way, Election Night at the Marriott is the talk of the town. No wonder.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.