Published on: Jan 7, 2008
Retired Lt. Col. Allen West thinks the good people of Florida respect a leader who takes bold action to get results. Heâ€™s confident theyâ€™ll vote for him in November because of â€” and in spite of â€” an incident in which he took the law into his own hands in Iraq to protect his troops.
â€œItâ€™s about individual accountability and responsibility, and thatâ€™s what people want,â€ said West, 46, who is running on the Republican ticket in Floridaâ€™s 22nd Congressional District. The district stretches from northern Broward Country through to Palm Beach County and includes the areas of Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach and Coconut Creek.
In trying to reclaim a seat that had been held by a Republican for more than a quarter-century, West is running against Rep. Ron Klein, a first-term Democratic incumbent who defeated Rep. Clay Shaw in 2006.
A political novice with a campaign chest of about $50,000, West is taking on a much more politically connected and well-funded foe. Klein served in the Florida House of Representatives, then the Florida Senate, where he was minority leader. The 50-year-old lawyer and lobbyist has raised some $1.8 million in campaign funds.
But Klein has no military service and West considers his own character and track record as a military officer unassailable.
His goal is to land a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, where he believes heâ€™s uniquely qualified to be an experienced voice for the troops.
Still, even with a solid 22-year Army career to back up his claims, he suffered a significant setback in October 2003, when he was relieved of command of 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division for his illegal treatment of a detainee in Iraq.
He was punished after admitting that two months earlier, he fired a shot from his 9mm pistol as he held it next to the head of a recalcitrant detainee who West said had been stonewalling interrogators at a base near Taji, just north of Baghdad.
But the cop quickly caved in after Westâ€™s phony death threat.
After the gunshot, West recalled, the detainee screamed â€œok, OK, OK!â€ and gave up the names of three individuals who were then taken off the streets, ending a cycle of roadside bomb attacks on Westâ€™s men that had been escalating the previous three weeks.
West said he knew firing the gun would probably end his career but nevertheless did it to protect his soldiers.
I’ve set up a series for this topic and I will be following the campaign.