The general election has already arrived for outspoken tea party favorite freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who is likely to face fiery former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel (D) wherever his district lines end up being drawn.
A West-Frankel race is likely to be one with high-octane rhetoric that will attract interest — and cash — from across the nation.
“It will be exciting. It will be interesting to watch. It will expensive,” Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein told Roll Call. “There will be a lot of mud that will be slung.”
West has become a national figure in his first six months in office with myriad media appearances. He was a fundraising juggernaut in his race last cycle for the 22nd district, raking in more than $6.5 million. In the first quarter of this year, the former Army officer raised nearly $500,000.
And Frankel managed to raise $255,000 in just three weeks in March. (She declared her candidacy March 21.)
Although Florida’s redistricting process is unlikely to be complete until the middle of 2012, Frankel said she will challenge West in whichever district he runs.
“It absolutely is a race to watch,” said Screven Watson, a longtime Florida Democratic strategist.
Frankel has hired Brian Smoot of 4C Partners as her general consultant and Mike Reid, who worked for the campaign of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), as her finance director. Frankel campaign aides said she can win substantial margins of the critical independent and senior voters, who swung to the GOP in 2010, in a general election.
The fact that Frankel is choosing to run against a Member and not just in a district makes the race unusual. National Democrats have their eyes on a number of races in the state, especially districts such as the 22nd that are held by a Republican but were won by President Barack Obama in 2008. Florida is gaining two seats through reapportionment. Watson, former executive director of the state Democratic Party, said some potential Democratic candidates in the Sunshine State are wary to take on an incumbent before they have any idea what the lines of the district will be.
Watson added it was especially difficult in regions of Florida with big population growth, where the new seats are likely to be placed. “If you’re a potential challenger in that area, man it’s tough to get your arms around what your district is going to look like,” he said.
Frankel, seen as forceful, no-nonsense and straightforward by her supporters and as abrasive and rude by her opponents, is well-known and favored to beat businessman Patrick Murphy in a Democratic primary.
Murphy, 28, recently left the Republican Party to become a Democrat. He also wants to run against West, regardless of redistricting, and has tailored his fundraising pitches against the freshman’s brief tenure in Congress. That’s probably one reason he raised $350,000 in the first three weeks of his campaign.