STUART, Fla. - Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder announced Tuesday he's running against U.S. Representative Allen West.
Sheriff Crowder has been a public servant for 47 years in Martin County and also St. Lucie County. Now, he's hoping to serve his neighbors in a different way.
Crowder says he's dreamed about running for Congress for 30 years.
"I have a feel for much of the district, most of the people, the problems, the nature of the issues here," said Crowder.
District 18 is where he will try to make the dream come true. It's newly created, part of redistricting efforts statewide. Redrawn lines will include all of Martin and St. Lucie counties. Crowder will run as a Republican against Allen West. West thinks he has a better chance in District 18 than in District 22, his old political stomping ground. But Crowder will work to leverage his local ties.
"It's not a personal thing with me," Crowder said. "I just think that I can serve this district and these people better than someone coming from the outside who's never lived here, and that's what I want to do."
It is a daunting challenge. West is a Tea Party favorite from Plantation. He has strong organization and a campaign war chest reportedly bulging with five and a half million dollars.
"And I don't know that I can ever catch up with the amount that the congressman has," said Crowder. "But we know how to do grassroots campaigns."
Crowder has won five elections for sheriff. He vows not to criticize West, saying he simply wants to offer local voters a longtime, local alternative.
"If the people want an insider, want a local person, I'm glad to serve," said Crowder.
Crowder admits it won't be easy to beat West, but he's up for the challenge. He acknowledges he will probably have to resign as sheriff before his term comes to an end.
We reached out to the West campaign but have gotten no response.