STUART — After conceding a two-week challenge over election results that favored Patrick Murphy, U.S. Rep. Allen West said thanks to his supporters during a barbecue at his campaign headquarters Monday.
At his Colorado Avenue office, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican kept his message positive and wove military quotes into his seven-minute address. In the District 18 race that fielded almost $24 million among the candidates and outside groups, West fell by 1,904 votes to his Jupiter Democrat foe.
"The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph will be," West told supporters. "So don't come here tonight crying over your barbecue. Come here tonight and understand that at this place, at this time, there will be an awakening that will go forth all across the United States of America."
Here are some insights West shared after the event.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the results St. Lucie County produced, West said that's up to the people to determine.
St. Lucie never counted 306 early ballots until a week and half after the election. St. Lucie also failed to count or double-counted thousands of early votes on Election Night. All the issues were remedied with a partial recount, Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker has said. Results from a subsequent recount of all early ballots extended Murphy's lead, but the canvassing board did not finish in time to report updated results to the state.
West conceded last Tuesday, saying his lawyers advised him there weren't enough miscounted votes to sway the outcome.
"I think the people are not satisfied. And so the people are going to take that message on," West said. "The most important thing that we did, we continued to fight so that every vote counted. And if there were some nefarious activities, the people will make sure that they continue that on. But the republic has to be restored, and if these people don't have trust and confidence in the electoral process, then we don't have the consent of the governed, and that's my concern moving forward."
Staying in Florida
After an expensive election that turned personal for each candidate, West assured reporters Tuesday that he's holding up fine.
"It's not like my life ends, and my life of service to this country doesn't," he said.
West first ran for Congress in 2008 in the Broward-Palm Beach seat he currently fills, but lost to then-U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, a Democrat. West bounced back behind Tea Party support in 2010 to upend the District 22 incumbent. As for plans to run for office, West said he hasn't decided.
"That's not for now. Now is to show appreciation for all these folks that did so much," West said. "That's between my wife and I and God as far as where we're going to go. Folks have to understand that God orders your steps, not man, and better doors are going to open."
The Georgia-born Republican already has gotten an invitation from GOP officials one state north to run for Congress there in 2014, but he said it's not something he wants to pursue.
"My wife was the daughter of a career military guy, and then she married a career military guy," West said. "We came here eight years ago and this is our home. We got a daughter in college down here, we've got a daughter in high school. This is where we live, and we're honored to be down here in South Florida."
West pointed out that the campaign got ugly, and he said it wasn't issue-centered.
Thomas Murphy Jr., Murphy's dad and CEO of Coastal Construction Group, donated $250,000 to a super PAC that ran an ad where a cartoonish West in boxing gloves punched women and seniors. The ad claims West hurt these groups with his congressional votes. West called the TV spot racist.
The candidates' attacks peaked when West ran an ad featuring Murphy's mug shot from 2003. At 19, Murphy 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 in 2003 he fired a gun near a detainee's head. West faced a $5,000 fine but charges were dropped and he retired with full benefits.
"I think it's pretty tough when you're running against all the media down here, and when people are portraying you as a war criminal and saying some things about me beating my wife," West said. "It was just a very ugly campaign where people didn't really focus on issues. But that's behind us now. The most important thing is I want to make sure we have a great future for my daughters and for their children and grandchildren. That's what we fight for."
West criticized Murphy for running on a moderate Democratic platform, but getting support from former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He referenced an article on the Daily Kos that Murphy wouldn't join the moderate Blue Dog Democrats. Murphy has said he will join the New Democrat Coalition, another moderate Democratic group.
"I would tell you something you all never asked me about was his pledge to the Daily Kos that he would not have anything to do with Blue Dog Democrats, the conservatives," West said. "We've heard that song before. We know exactly what happens."
The congressman pledged to stay involved on the Treasure Coast, particularly in veterans issues.
"There are plenty of community activities. I'm a 22-year veteran, there's no one speaking up for veterans down here, so that's the No. 1 thing that I will continue to do."
West potentially has important votes to cast in a lame-duck session through the year's end. He stressed that he doesn't support new taxes as part of a deal for the looming "fiscal cliff" — a combination of expiring tax breaks and steep across-the-board spending cuts that will take effect in January without congressional action.
"We have to look at economic growth and how do we broaden the tax base, because anyone who's a student of economics can tell you that raising taxes is not going to do anything," West said. "If you look at the President's fiscal year 2013 budget that wants to raise like $1.9 trillion, you still get the debt, it increases over the next 10 years to $26 trillion. You have deficits that never go below $900 billion. It never balances. But what do you get? A 53-percent increase in the federal government. It's a spending problem in Washington D.C., it's not a revenue problem. And I will continue to talk about that as my voice goes on."