Lois Frankel launches bid for Allen West’s congressional seatby George Bennett | March 21st, 2011
Term-limited West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel announced today that she’s running for the congressional seat of freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, setting up what could be yet another expensive, nationally watched race in Palm Beach-Broward District 22.
Democrat Frankel said she’ll focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but declined to outline specific policy stances in an interview today.
Frankel was a fiery liberal Democratic state House member before winning the first of two nonpartisan terms as West Palm Beach mayor in 2003. She lost a bitter 1992 Democratic primary runoff for Congress to eventual U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar.
District 22 includes much of coastal Palm Beach and Broward counties and is fairly evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters. But new boundaries will be drawn before the 2012 elections.
West is an outspoken conservative with a strong national following who won the district with 54.4 percent in November.
“Allen West’s record’s going to speak for itself,” Frankel said. “I believe the focus needs to be not on talk radio. The focus needs to be on working people — on people paying their mortgages, on people getting jobs and that should be the focus of Mr. West and the rest of Congress.”
West said he’s focused on his job rather than campaigning.
“We are at a critical time in our country’s history. We need to takes steps to create jobs, restrain government spending and be focused on our national security. My focus is representing the constituents of the 22nd Congressional District. There is a time and place for politics. I am focused on representing the constituents and building a brighter future for our children,” West said.
Frankel told reporters she’s running because, “After being mayor for eight years and a mother who sent her child to war twice, I have seen first hand how the policies in Washington affect small business owners, people looking for jobs, people who have jobs and want to keep them, families. I just want to roll up my sleeves like I’ve done here in West Palm Beach and try to get a more vibrant economy here in South Florida.”
Frankel’s son served with the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Asked about her approach to improving the economy, Frankel declined to offer an opinion on the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress in 2009.
“I’m not going to comment on how I would have or should have because there’s going to be plenty of time for that,” Frankel said. “My priorities are jobs for working people….I think that’s what we need — people who roll up their sleeves and solve problems. And that’s really what I want to say today and as the campaign develops certainly we’ll put out our position papers.”
Other Democrats have shown interest in the race and Fort Lauderdale businessman Patrick Murphy recently launched a Democratic campaign for the seat.
The biggest question mark is former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein of Boca Raton, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running again. Frankel has hired former Klein consultant Brian Smoot to advise her campaign.
“Right now I’m not anticipating Ron Klein running for Congress,” Frankel said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified West as a top target for 2012.
The DCCC has already unleashed radio ads and automated phone calls critical of West, and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., was in Palm Beach last month interviewing potential West challengers.
Frankel said she expects to raise $4 million for the race. West raised more than $6 million for his campaign last year and Klein more than $5 million.