Tea Party Favorite Allen West Concedes Florida Race

Two weeks after votes were cast, Tea Party firebrand Allen West conceded he lost his Florida Congressional race to Democrat Patrick Murphy. He was one of just a few Tea Party activists to be defeated.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Two weeks have passed since Election Day and still not all races have been settled. In a moment, we'll get an update on the national picture, but first, to Florida, where Republican Congressman Allen West conceded today that he lost his race for reelection against Democrat and political newcomer Patrick Murphy.

West served only one term in Congress, but his provocative style made him a national Tea Party favorite. As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami, after two weeks of fighting for a recount, West determined it wouldn't change the outcome.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Allen West never came out and spoke election night to supporters gathered at a Boca Raton hotel. With the closeness of the race and questions about the vote count, West kept fighting. He even went to court asking judges to impound the ballots and vote machines. The courts refused to intervene. In St. Lucie County, election officials conducted a partial recount of early votes.

Ultimately, West says, he was forced to conclude that even a full recount wouldn't give him a victory. He announced he was conceding this morning on Fox News.

ALLEN WEST: We're going to move ahead and we wish Congressman Murphy elect very well, but I think that now is not the time to try to draw a process out.

ALLEN: Until recently, the man who'll replace Allen West in Congress, Democrat Patrick Murphy, was also a Republican. Murphy says he changed parties after becoming disturbed by some of the divisive rhetoric he heard from the Tea Party, including Congressman West.

REPRESENTATIVE PATRICK MURPHY: I just said, there's no time for this. We have to work together right now in our country and not pull each other apart. And my opponent was, to me, exactly what was wrong with Congress. So I said I'm not going to sit back and complain anymore. I'm going to get to work and do something about it.

ALLEN: West was an intimidating opponent for Murphy, with his frequent appearances on Fox News and conservative talk radio programs, West is a strong fundraiser who ended up with more than $17 million, in the top three of all House Republicans. Murphy announced he would run against West, but then, after reapportionment made the district more Democratic, West announced he would run for another Florida congressional seat just to the north.

Murphy moved up the coast as well, making it clear he was intent not just on running for Congress, but on running against West. Using West's national profile against him, Murphy raised nearly $4 million, much of it from outside of the district. Kevin Wagner, who teaches political science at Florida Atlantic University, notes that Murphy's ads mostly showed video clips of West.

KEVIN WAGNER: Patrick Murphy doesn't have much of a record at all going into this race so there was a lot of people deciding whether they liked or didn't like Allen West.

ALLEN: Throughout Florida and nationally, Allen West has earned supporters and ardent detractors, too. At a conservative women's conference last year, he said liberal women, quote, "have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness." Earlier this year, he said he believed some 80 Democrats in Congress were members of the Communist Party.

It's a bombastic style that plays well on conservative media, but which doesn't help an incumbent seeking reelection. On Fox News today, West said he wouldn't rule out another run for office, but he left his options open.

WEST: You know, I've been serving this country my entire adult life and leaders don't need a title in order to continue to lead and also to be a voice. And so I will continue to be a citizen servant of this great nation and do the things to help restore this constitutional republic.

ALLEN: West has ruled out one opportunity, an invitation from the head of George's Republican party to run for office there. With a daughter in high school and another in a Florida college, West says he plans to stay in the sunshine state. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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