WASHINGTON — Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said he didn’t vote for a $ 716 billion cut to Medicare that he voted for. Democrat Patrick Murphy split from his party on where to draw the line on extending the Bush tax cuts. And neither apologized for fueling what has become one of the ugliest campaigns in the country.
After weeks of increasingly vitriolic ads, West and Murphy sat down on Friday night for their only formal debate in a race to represent Florida’s 18th Congressional District. There weren’t many fireworks during the hour-long exchange — West interrupted Murphy a few times, which Murphy pushed back on — but there seemed a palpable tension in the room the entire time.
Right out of the gate, West, a Tea Party favorite, was pressed on his reputation for stirring controversy. The moderator ticked off some of West’s past comments — he called members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus “communists,” said Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be proud of Democrats and said liberal women’s groups were “neutering” American men — and asked if his critics are correct that those remarks make him an ineffective congressman.