Incumbent Democrat Ron Klein won a second term representing Florida’s 22nd congressional district in 2008, beating his opponent, Lt. Col. Allen West, a Republican, 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. West came back ready for a rematch this year with a $3.5 million campaign kitty that exceeds Klein’s by $1 million, according to Real Clear Politics. His platform is designed to appeal to the district’s substantial numbers of elderly voters.
Candidate: Ron Klein
Political experience: Klein has represented Florida’s 22nd congressional district since 2006. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees.
Klein was a state representative from 1992 until 1996. In 1996, he was elected to the state senate where he served until elected to Congress. In the state senate, he was minority whip in 1998 and Democratic leader from 2002 to 2004, according to Project Vote Smart.
Professional experience: Klein is an attorney. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Ohio State University and a law degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Key Issues: On national security, Klein supports imposing tough sanctions on Iran, supporting Israel’s military efforts against its Middle East neighbors and identifying Venezuela as a state-sponsor of terrorism. He advocates increases in veteran’s benefits.
Klein favors professional support, competitive benefits and improved workplace conditions for teachers. He voted for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which increased Pell Grants for higher education students and provided $53 billion to help school districts avoid staff-reducing budget cuts.
Calling himself a deficit hawk, Klein voted for health care reform but conditioned his support on its not raising the deficit. He spearheaded legislation to close the costly Medicare donut hole. He voted for increased funding for NIH medical research and subsidization of COBRA premiums for the unemployed.
Klein advocates fostering energy independence by investing in renewable energy, modernizing the electric grid, conserving and supporting development of plug-in electric cars.
Endorsements: Florida Alliance of Retired Americans and Voters Coalition are among Klein’s organizational endorsements.
Chances of winning the race: Although West is a strong opponent, pollsters give Klein the edge. Cook Political Reports and CQ Politics rate the race as leaning Democratic, despite Republicans having a slight registration advantage.
Candidate: Allen West
Political experience: West has no political experience, having run against Klein for 22nd district representative in 2008 and lost.
Professional experience: West retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2004 after 20 years of service. He taught high school for a year, according to his website, then took a post as advisor to the Afghan army until 2007. He received his bachelor’s degree from University of Tennessee and his master’s from Kansas State University. He also holds a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the US Army Command and General Staff Officer College in political theory and military operations.
Key Issues: Jobs and the economy is a paramount concern for West who notes on his website that Florida is suffering 12 percent unemployment and has the third highest mortgage foreclosure rates in the country. To restore the economy, he would revise the tax code, moving toward a flat system of taxation, provide tax cuts and incentives to small business and “stop the floodgates of government spending.”
On national security, West proposes restoring American exceptionalism by modernizing and increasing the size of the armed forces and going on the offensive against regimes founded in radical Islam.
West contends that energy independence is critical to national security. He would diversify U.S. reliance on energy sources and invest in the full spectrum.
West believes that curbing illegal immigration is key to improving various social ills and that the laws are already on the books waiting to be enforced.
Endorsements: Sarah Palin has endorsed Allen West as has Freedom for Vets and Fraternal Order of Police.
Chances of winning the race: West, with his impeccable credentials and ample campaign fund, has mounted a credible challenge to Klein. Nonetheless, the signs are pointing to a Klein win. As of late September, both candidates have a little more than $2 million in cash on hand.
Key Differences between Ron Klein and Allen West
Both candidates express pro-military, pro-Israel and anti-terrorist positions on national security.
On education, Klein supports improved working conditions for teachers and increased federal funding for college students. West does not state an educational platform on his website, but he refers to education as “the great equalizer” that can enable children to live their dreams.
Klein supported health care reform and increased investment in health research. West would repeal health care reform.
On energy policy, Klein wants to invest in renewable energy. West supports both renewable and traditional energy and criticized his opponent for blocking new oil-drilling leases.
To create new jobs, West would revamp the tax code, trading progressive taxation for a flat rate tax, and je would invest in small business. Klein would invest in infrastructure to create new jobs.
Illegal immigration should be curbed by enforcing laws on the books, according to West. Klein co-sponsored the SAVE Act, referred to a House subcommittee in June, which would provide various enhanced border security measures.
Demographics: Florida’s 22nd District had a population of 678,722 as of the 2006 to 2008 Census survey period. Nearly one-fifth of that population is older than 65, giving the retiree vote serious clout. The population is 87 percent white, 5.8 percent black, with 15 percent of voters of all races identifying themselves as Latino. There were 216,287 owner-occupied homes in the district, with a median value of $376,700, a significant statistic in light of Florida’s high foreclosure rate.