Allen West to run in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district, Rooney moves west, Hasner could drop Senate bidby George Bennett | January 31st, 2012
Facing a tough reelection fight in a district that was redrawn with a Democratic tilt, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, announced today that he will instead run in a more Republican-leaning district to the north that’s home to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta.
Rooney will run in a newly created rural district that extends from western Martin and St. Lucie counties to Charlotte County on Florida’s west coast and north into parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties. Rooney represents much of that area now.
With no Republican incumbent in West’s current Palm Beach-Broward congressional District 22, sources close to former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton said Hasner is considering dropping his U.S. Senate bid and running for West’s congressional seat.
West’s current District 22 is nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. But a plan approved by the Florida Senate and up for a vote in the state House this week creates a district where Democrats have a 9-point registration advantage and Barack Obama got 56.6 percent of the vote in 2008.
If approved by the House, the new congressional map could still face legal challenges under a new anti-gerrymandering law approved by voters in 2010.
Two Democrats — former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and Fort Lauderdale accountant Patrick Murphy — have been running in West’s District 22 and have raised about $1.4 million apiece.
“We chased Allen West out of the district,” crowed Frankel campaign adviser Bret Wask, who said Frankel would continue to run in District 22.
West didn’t acknowledge the partisan shift in District 22 in a statement announcing his plans to run in District 18. But, he said, “As a 22-year United States Army veteran who commanded troops in combat, one should never underestimate my ability to be a strategic thinker.”
The new District 18 where West will run is no slam dunk for Republicans. It has a 38-to-37.3 Republican registration edge and voted 51 percent for Obama in 2008.
The new District 17 where Rooney will run has a 40.7-to-37.7 percent Republican advantage and voted 55.7 percent for Republican John McCain in 2008.
Rooney grew up in northern Palm Beach County and lives in eastern Martin County, but said he is “excited” to represent the area to the west, which includes many of his current constituents. Rooney is on the House Agricultural Committee and chairs its subcommittee on livestock.
“A vibrant agricultural industry is not only the backbone of this district, but a key driver of both our state and national economies,” Rooney said, “and I believe that I can best serve the people of Florida as a leader on the Agriculture Committee and a Representative of Florida’s new 17th district.”
After early redistricting plans showed West’s district becoming heavily Democratic, rumors swirled that he might challenge Rooney in a congressional primary or leave the House to pursue a U.S. Senate bid.
West consistently denied both rumors.
“I have always believed the state of Florida would be best served by having both Congressman Tom Rooney and myself in the House of Representatives working to solve our nation’s most pressing problems,” West said today.
“Congressman Rooney is a statesman and has been an honorable public servant to the constituents of Florida’s 16th Congressional district. It is my goal to continue the success Congressman Rooney has had in Florida’s 16th Congressional district in the newly proposed 18th district,” West said.