Allen West could have won

Allen West is a good man. I like his positions on many issues. I like his verve, his take charge demeanor, his ability to sum things up. Perhaps that’s his military training. I think he would have made a fine congressman. Alas, he lost. He lost by 2000 votes.

I think I know one reason he may have lost. In a very visceral & raw political way I think I can explain.

I know his district. I’ve been going there since 1969, when my grandparents moved there. Many relatives of mine have lived there. I’ve owned a house there. My father lives there; he’s a little real estate mogul. My brother, too. And sundry cousins, family friends, etc. In the 1990s I owned the Florida Trade Show Company. Our headquarters were in West Palm Beach. I put on trade shows in Palm Beach County. It’s the Florida 22nd. Here’s a map, so we know what we’re talking about.


I published Business Plus, a short lived business magazine for this area. I had a comedic but serious radio show, Havoc With Hlavac, on WPBR 1340AM. Many of my New York friends have family in the area too. I’ve had jobs there, and I’ve owned a plant nursery. While I no longer live there, I go there still. So, in these many guises I’ve had ample opportunity to learn the district, over a period of decades. I watched it grow to what it is today. I guess I know it as well as a Congressman could know it, only better.

Now, Fort Lauderdale, the district to the south, is a Gay haven – and not at all like any of the inner city you bewail. So rich that the more frugal or poorer gays moved north. To Oakland Park, in the district, to Pompano, Delray, Lantana, Lake Worth – right up the coast. Florida’s 22nd isn’t just an “average” district when it comes to gay men – it’s above average.

I also know every gay bar in the district. Many for decades in the same place. I also know many of the men there. Many are quite conservative. They are working men, owning businesses, good jobs, retired, paying taxes. They are quiet men just living lives, often near their elderly parents, like I did. These are gay men. Not radical homosexuals by any means. At their core they are conservative men – other than their smooching, I guess. They are certainly not Leftists in any political sense. They are not happy with the way the nation is going, either.

On the other hand, there’s practical politics. Winning. To get 2,000 votes, or a few donations to pay for more campaign fliers and signs, Mr. West, or one of his staff, or someone who could say “I’m speaking for the campaign …” could have gone to one of the district’s many gay churches, bowling leagues, businessman’s luncheon’s, professional meetings, sports leagues, or some essentially normal setting and said “Hello, we have a national economic problem – regardless of all else …” and somehow asked for the votes and the money without making any commitment or public splash.

Nothing more than “hello” – and the press would have nothing to talk about – for there’s no controversy which they love. At most a headline of “Campaign staffer visits gay bowling league.” Instead, during the campaign this confounded subject of our existence came up – as it will continue to do. Everyone said something. I’m not going to go over that part. That’s the political fight I don’t really like; water under the bridge. But that’s the part that made the press.

Meanwhile, the economic health of this nation is far more important than any other issue. Neither “Gay Marriage” or a “cure” for us is going to make a difference if the money is no good, goods are unavailable, and there’s riots in the streets and a police crack down and all the rest we’re all worried about. And if the Democrats keep getting in office that might well happen. On the other hand, politics makes strange bedfellows. And knowing gay men and my family and friends in District 22 I can assure you, a mere “hello” might have sufficed – rather than what was said.

From my many years of working, living and visiting the area I know there’s just not enough people willing to disparage gay men anymore. I was a busy little activist, I assure you. I got my family to write letters to the Florida Orange Commission about Anita Bryant in the 1970s. Later on doing good works, and hiring people, and helping my father write his memoirs, in this district. You don’t have to like it, but well, there’s a catch, in the 22nd you have to put up with it.

Which brings me to a larger point. Telling gay people and anyone who likes us to vote for the other side, for Democrats and socialism, has got to be the weirdest election strategy I’ve ever heard of. I’m a practical man. Getting votes is how you win elections. I’m also a diehard Sarah Palin fan, whether you like it or not. Now, I’m willing to put up with a lot of gruff from many people about my politics. But other people are not, and they listened in the 22nd. So West lost. But, if he had followed my advice and said “hello” to some of my friends he would have had his 2,000 votes.


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