In a House race watched nationally, tea party favorite and retired Army officer Allen West soundly defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Klein in South Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.
West lost by 10 points to Klein in 2008, but preliminary results show him winning this time, 54 to 46.
Republican Rep. Clay Shaw held the seat for 26 years until Klein won the seat in 2006 with just over 50 percent of the vote.
West told a joyous crowd of supporters that “the beacon of liberty, the beacon of hope, that which is great about the United States of America, starts right here in District 22.”
“We are going to establish a government that will follow the constitutional principles that our Founding Fathers laid down for us – which means very simply, this is a government by the people and for the people,” he vowed.
See West’s victory speech:
West became known to WND readers in 2003 when the Army prosecuted him for bold interrogation tactics he used to protect his soldiers in Iraq. Amid his controversial ordeal, he drew support from congressmen and many Americans who regarded him as a hero.
West’s passionately delivered emphasis on constitutional principles of liberty, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and free-market solutions attracted attention well beyond Florida’s 22nd district.
A video of his rally cry to the party base in preparation for his 2010 run has generated more than 2 million hits on YouTube.com.
See Allen West’s speech:
‘Bad guys are going to lose’
As WND reported in 2003, West was threatened with court-martial for tactics he used to flush out information from an uncooperative Iraqi policeman. Threatening to kill the Iraqi if he didn’t talk, West fired a pistol near the policeman’s head, producing an immediate flood of information that purportedly led to the arrest of two insurgents and cessation of attacks on West’s 4th Infantry Division battalion.
In a 2008 interview with WND, West said his 2003 ordeal should tell voters what kind of a lawmaker he would be, particularly when it comes to issues of defense.
“If you’re a bad guy, and you try to get between me and the safety and lives of American citizens, you’re going to lose,” West said.
Army prosecutors charged West with aggravated assault, and he faced the possibility of up to eight years in prison. At a hearing, West was asked by his defense attorney if he would do it again.
“If it’s about the lives of my men and their safety, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can,” he said.
West eventually accepted a nonjudicial punishment and the forfeiture of two months’ pay. He retired from the military and moved with his wife, Angela, and two young daughters to Broward County, Florida, where he taught high school. He served in Afghanistan as an adviser to the Afghan army until November 2007.
The campaign got personal in its final weeks.
Klein campaign ads accused West of having ties to a motorcycle group that the U.S. Justice Department has labeled criminal. West’s spokesman called the accusation “another desperate move for a politician who sees his power slipping away.”