A Black War Vet Challenges a Jewish Incumbent for South Florida House Seat

Ron Klein (D) and Allen West (R)
Ron Klein (D) and Allen West (R)

Published September 14, 2010.
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Polls

Democratic Rep. Ron Klein faces off against Republican Allen West, a retired lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq. A Sept. 20-22 poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research gives Klein 48%, a five-point lead over West’s 43% among 504 likely voters. Klein beat West by 10 points in the last election cycle. Congressional Quarterly is calling it a likely Democratic win.


Biographies

Ron Klein
Party: Democratic (incumbent)
Age: 53
Religion: Jewish

After graduating from Case Western Reserve University’s law school, his private sector career focused on transactional law. In 1992, he won a seat in the Florida State House, and was promoted to state senate Minority Leader in 1996. Ten years later, a group of Democrats—including Rahm Emanuel—recruited him to run for the U.S. House, and he ousted 13-term incumbent Rep. Clay Shaw.

Ret. Army Lt. Col. Allen West
Party: Republican
Age: 49

The much-decorated retired Lt. Colonel served in Iraq and advised in Afghanistan long after getting his masters from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Officer College. He lost to Klein in the 2008 election by ten points. He resigned from the army after he admitted wrongdoing regarding fear tactics he used during an interrogation. He wants to replace the income tax with a flat tax.


Issues

Israel During Israel’s Gaza campaign in 2008-2009, Klein, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voted for a resolution supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and advocated for a ceasefire that required Hamas to stop firing rockets and return Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier the group abducted. Klein criticized the Administration’s harsh condemnation of East Jerusalem settlement growth. He has been meeting with Israeli leaders.

West has criticized the Obama Administration’s “unprecedented disregard for the sovereignty of the State of Israel – America’s strongest ally,” especially regarding “browbeating Israel for building homes in their rightful capital.” He says Israel needs more allies in congress to “stand up to the Obama Administration’s appeasement of Islamic terrorism.”

Iran

Klein supports further sanctions on Iran, lest it achieve nuclear capabilities. Klein co-authored legislation on Iran sanctions. According to his site, “A nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable, and Rep. Klein is continuing to take steps to ensure that threat never becomes a reality.”

West agreed at an Israel rally that Iran’s nuclear threat is dire.

Iraq/Afghanistan

Klein first ran as an Iraq war critic, saying Bush’s outline was unreasonable. He pushed for a withdrawal timetable and voted down funding packages. In 2008, he voted to impeach Bush for lying about Iraq. He supported the Afghanistan surge in 2009 and has said that properly funding troops could quicken withdrawal.

West served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, advised Afghanistan operations, and believes Islam is a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology that glorifies death” and must be defeated with force.

Counter-terrorism and Civil Liberties

Klein voted to override a veto of a law granting congress oversight over CIA interrogations and to restrict no-bid defense contracts. He voted yes on requiring warrants for domestic — but not international — wiretaps.

Health Care and Social Security

Klein voted for the health care reform bill and takes credit for including Medicare Advantage benefits for 800,000 Floridians. He voted to expand CHIP and Medicare. Regarding Social Security, Klein opposes personal accounts and privatization, and calls slashing social security “outrageous.”

West said he is on board to repeal the healthcare bill. He said he would support “real reform, such as health savings accounts, more competition and liability reform.” West maintains Social Security should be restored to an independent trust fund—as a general operating account, it has been used for pork barrel spending, he says.

Abortion Rights

Klein voted for embryonic stem cell funding and favors abortion rights.

West opposes abortion, holding that all human life from conception is sacred. He also opposes the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Islamic Center

Klein said the mosque does not belong on “sacred ground” because of the controversy it provokes.

West says the mosque “goes beyond the First Amendment,” and wrote Klein a letter asking him to condemn it.


The Campaign

Ron Klein (D)

Last Report: August 04, 2010

Allen B. West (R)

Last Report: August 04, 2010

Source: Opensecrets.org

West attended an Israel rally at a local temple. He also told the JTA that Klein’s videographer followed him, likening the cameraman to the “gestapo.” His campaign refused to apologize for the use of the term despite Klein’s requests.


Demographics

About 20% of District 22 residents are 65 and older, compared with the nation’s 12%. It includes Boca Raton, a retirement destination for elderly Jews. About 10% of the congressional district’s population is Jewish.






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