West arrived on the Treasure Coast political scene because it’s a redistricting year, and the new lines weren’t in his favor. U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, left the Treasure Coast to seek a more agricultural seat, while West headed north to avoid a District 22 race highly favoring Democrats. Republicans have a two-point registration edge in District 18 over Democrats.
Murphy had already planned to face West in District 22, so he followed West to District 18.
Armed with millions of dollars, both candidates stomped their primary competition and spent big leading to Election Day.
West’s national tea party support base funneled $17 million into his campaign, more than half coming from out-of-state donors. He spent $13.8 million, much of it on mailers and TV ads.
Murphy largely tailored himself as the anti-West, which helped him scrape together $3.6 million — one of the top hauls by Democrats. He shelled out $3.4 million, less than one-fourth of what West spent.
The candidates largely toed party lines in campaign ads, forums and their one debate. They repeating go-to arguments used by candidates nationwide about Medicare, taxes and spending, energy, women’s issues and more.
The candidates’ personal attacks peaked when West ran a TV ad featuring Murphy’s mugshot from 2003, when the 19-year-old was arrested for disorderly intoxication and using a fake ID outside a South Beach club. Charges were dropped.
Murphy countered with an ad about West’s military service in Iraq, where he fired a gun near a detainee’s head in 2003. West faced a $5,000 fine but retired with full benefits.
Murphy said he began campaigning at 6:30 a.m.
"We were out there in front of people early," he said.
Murphy said he'll be watching election results with supporters at his watch party, and will duck into a private room reserved for himself and his core campaign staff.
"We'll be analyzing the numbers and see how we're doing," he added.
He said voting was brisk this morning across the district, as he visited, and slowed down somewhat as the day progressed.
"The morning was packed," he said. "But there were no lines this afternoon. I just got a call from the Obama team saying there was what they thought was a two or three hour long line in Port St. Lucie and they wanted me to run up there and encourage voters to stay in line.
"I didn't see it, but that's what I was just told. I did not see that up there from where I was."
Lanny Ray Lee, 74, a retired physicist from Port St. Lucie, said he drove to the Double Tree Palm Beach Gardens hotel to support Murphy in person.
"He's a very impressive young man, and he would be a good representative," Lee said. "He just exudes management."
Lee said he's feeling more positive about Murphy winning than he did a couple of weeks ago.
"It's just a visceral feeling," he said.
Lee said it was important to be here in person with Murphy to watch the results come in.
"I just felt like I had to be here," he said. "I'm not superstitious but I think the more support he has, somehow the synergy is in the works."
Joel Bernstein, 71, a Port St. Lucie Murphy supporter who teaches physics at Indian River State College.
He said Murphy was a better choice than West.
"There's no comparison," he said. "I met him way in the beginning of the campaign and I could see. I'm old and I've been a Democrat, working for Democrats since I was 8-years-old in 1948."
Bernstein said he campaigned for Murphy all day Tuesday.
"I was at Murphy headquarters in Port St. Lucie and I was walking for Barack Obama so I said I wasn't going to go home and change. I'm not a voyeur, I'm a participant and I like to participate in things."
He projected Murphy will win, even though West was showing a narrow lead.
"Eventually I'd like to see him as Speaker of the House." he said.
Bob Levine, 60, of Port St. Lucie, a retired postal worker who owns an airport shuttle service, said he's volunteered for the Murphy campaign and it was important to watch the results with the other volunteers.
"We volunteered to help Patrick Murphy take down Allen West," he said. "Because West is on all the wrong sides on the major issues: women and social programs and he represents the rich, and big corporate America.
He said he has a disabled son whose caregivers suffered from funding cuts due to cuts pushed through by state GOP lawmakers. He said he wants to see more Democrats elected to try and reverse cuts to vital social services.
Levine said he's hopeful Murphy will win, but acknowledged the national attention West has garnered, which has resulted in a huge war chest to keep his congressional seat.
"He's got that going for him," he noted.
He said he hoped Murphy, if elected, will uphold Democratic principles, and "care about the middle class."