Isn’t Allen West’s decision to stay put in House race bad news for Lois Frankel?

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Tea party favorite Allen West’s recent decision to run for re -election in the house rather than challenge Senator Bill Nelson is certainly good news for George LeMeuix and Adam Hasner.  But it’s bad news for one of his democratic challengers, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, now that democrats will need focus on what kind of candidate can actually beat the Republican firebrand.

Frankel’s abrasive style, coupled with her 30 year treasure trove of political baggage, make her exactly the kind of candidate West hopes Democrats will nominate.  In fact, the NRCC considers Frankel an “opposition researcher’s delight” and too polarizing to appeal to the south Florida swing district’s moderate and independent voters.  West himself is a divisive figure and Frankel provides him with the perfect foil to make the race about someone other than himself.

The other Democrat running in the race, Ft. Lauderdale businessman and CPA Patrick Murphy, provides a clean contrast to West which would be a far greater challenge for the first term Congressman.  Although Murphy has much less political experience than Frankel, he is young, attractive and likable.  And, despite being as progressive as Frankel, Murphy strikes a more moderate appearance and style that would be far more appealing to the voters it will take to unseat West.  Political leaders are clearly starting to take notice as Murphy has raised over $800,000 – more than any other challenger in the country – and has begun getting endorsements from key political players like Democratic State Senator Jeremy Ring and former Governor Charlie Crist.

Perhaps they remember all too well that Democrats have nominated candidates similar to Frankel four times before in this district.  Commissioner Carol Roberts, State Representative Elaine Bloom, Mayor Hermione Weiner and State Senator Gwen Margolis were all older women with aggressive styles, liberal voting records and New York roots.  All four of them had the backing of Emily’s List (as does Frankel) and all four went on to lose in Florida’s 22nd district to then Congressman E. Clay Shaw.  (and no, that doesn’t mean all women candidates would fare poorly  – a south Florida version of Kathy Castor would probably be very electable in a seat like this).

Only State Senator Ron Klein was able to find the magic combination of progressive politics, pro- business philosophy and a less partisan tone to turn the red district blue after 22 years of GOP control.   Murphy seems to be putting together the same combination of attributes without alienating the liberal base.  Ironically, it’s been Frankel that has been reluctant to embrace progressive ideals and has run into trouble already with some traditional Democratic constituencies.

Since joining the race, Frankel has refused to say whether she would have supported “Obamacare” telling WFLX when asked in an interview, “I can’t answer that question right now because as a Congresswoman you have to take the people’s pulse”.  She also demurred when given the chance to offer support for the stimulus bill the President pushed through Congress telling WPTV television viewers, “there were a number of stimulus bills…instead of looking back look forward.”.  And perhaps most frustrating to anti-war democrats was her interview with liberal south Florida radio host Nicole Sandler where she refused to say whether we should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan or whether she supported US involvement in Libya telling the host, “I have the luxury of not having to weigh in right now” and “the world is so complicated and so chaotic…it’s hard to keep up each day with various rioting revolutions throughout the region.”  Huh?

Murphy for his part has been vocal in his support for gay marriage and the President’s agenda and has detailed a very progressive agenda on his website covering everything from abortion and gay rights to withdraw from the wars.   Frankel’s website makes no mention of the wars or gay rights.  This may be what’s contributing to Murphy gaining the most traction with the “net roots” democrats enabling him to amass almost 10,000 online supporters.  Labor Unions have also yet to unite behind Frankel’s candidacy because of her support for non-union companies in West Palm Beach construction projects and her pension busting of police and firefighters in the city.

All this plus years of bad votes, a grand jury report saying Frankel’s tenure as mayor was plagued with “pay to play” politics and a recent scathing report by the new Mayor’s transition team on Frankel’s management of West Palm Beach gives West a lot to smile about.  That is unless Democrats are smart enough to put Murphy up against him instead.  If that happens then all bets are off.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.