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West concedes in Fla. House race, leaves one black GOP lawmaker

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  • **FILE** Former Florida Rep. Allen West. (Associated Press) **FILE** Former Florida Rep. Allen West. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Linda McSpadden demands that Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican, stop his battle for his congressional seat, Florida's 18th District, outside the Palm Beach Circuit Court House in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Nov. 8, 2012. (Associated Press) **FILE** Linda McSpadden demands that Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican, stop his battle for his congressional seat, Florida's 18th District, outside the Palm Beach Circuit Court House in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Nov. 8, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, campaigns with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Romney's wife, Ann, at Tradition Town Square in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press) **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, campaigns with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Romney's wife, Ann, at Tradition Town Square in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, picks up a boy as he greats the crowd before a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press) **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, picks up a boy as he greats the crowd before a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Rep. Allen West (left), Florida Republican, greets the crowd before a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press) **FILE** Rep. Allen West (left), Florida Republican, greets the crowd before a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Cara Jennings joins a Nov. 8, 2012, demonstration outside the Palm Beach Circuit Court building in West Palm Beach, Fla., where people demanded Republican Rep. Allen West stop his battle to keep his congressional seat. (Associated Press) **FILE** Cara Jennings joins a Nov. 8, 2012, demonstration outside the Palm Beach Circuit Court building in West Palm Beach, Fla., where people demanded Republican Rep. Allen West stop his battle to keep his congressional seat. (Associated Press)
  • ** FILE ** Then-Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, speaks on Feb. 10, 2012, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. (Associated Press) ** FILE ** Then-Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, speaks on Feb. 10, 2012, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, waves before introducing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (center) and Romney's wife, Ann, during a campaign rally in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press) **FILE** Rep. Allen West (right), Florida Republican, waves before introducing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (center) and Romney's wife, Ann, during a campaign rally in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)

Rep. Allen B. West’s concession Tuesday that he lost his bid for re-election means the 113th Congress will open in January with only one black Republican in either chamber — a rough end to a year when the GOP had high hopes for expanding the diversity of its caucus.

Mr. West, a tea-party favorite, had spent the past two weeks fighting for a recount in his race against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, but on Tuesday Mr. West said he had crunched the numbers and realized he would not be able to make up enough ground to hang onto his seat.

His loss leaves Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina as the sole black Republican in Congress and has the party searching for answers.

“I wouldn’t draw any cosmic lessons from the fact that this was a disappointing year for black Republican candidates. It was an even poorer year for black Democratic House candidates running in non-African American districts,” said former Rep. Artur Davis, who left the Democratic Party this year and became a key black backer of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Republicans had four top-tier black candidates in the House this year: incumbents Mr. West and Mr. Scott, and challengers Mia Love in Utah and Vernon Parker in Arizona.

Only Mr. Scott, a first-term incumbent in South Carolina, won.

In 2010, Republicans ran more black candidates than they did this year, and victories by Mr. West and Mr. Scott gave the GOP their first black lawmakers since 2003.

Mr. Scott told the Charleston Post and Courier this week that the GOP didn’t fail on principles as much as it did on the way it conveyed the message.

“I believe we were right on the issues, most consistently right,” he told the paper, but added, “perhaps we were wrong on the level of passion that could be sensed in connecting with voters.”

Mr. West did not go without a fight.

He had challenged vote counting in St. Lucie County, and earned a partial recount of ballots there over the weekend. But that recount actually showed Mr. Murphy, his Democratic opponent, expanding his lead to more than half a percentage point.

“I will not ask my generous supporters to help fund a drawn-out, expensive legal effort with little chance of success,” Mr. West said in a statement early Tuesday in announcing his concession.

In an email to supporters, Mr. Murphy called Mr. West’s concession “gracious” and the congressman-elect said he will continue his preparations to take the seat Jan. 3, when the next Congress is sworn in.

“I campaigned on a message that reaching across the aisle is as important in this district as it is in Washington,” he said. “To those who supported my opponent, my door is open and I want to hear your voice.”

With that result, the House’s makeup is nearly settled: Democrats will hold 200 seats in the House next year to the GOP’s 234, with one North Carolina race still to be decided. Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre leads Republican challenger David Rouzer by fewer than 700 votes. Mr. Rouzer on Tuesday asked for a recount.

Republicans took some solace in the fact that they elected Ted Cruz to the Senate, adding another high-profile Hispanic to their roster, which already includes two Hispanic governors and two Indian-American governors.

Still, the GOP is searching for answers when it comes to black voters.

Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said the problem isn’t GOP principles.

“I’ve sat and talked when I was in Fairfax with the NAACP — we were right there on everything,” said Mr. Mullins, who served as chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee from 1990 to 1996. “[The head] was pro-life, he was concerned about the education his kids were getting, they wanted access to guns in their neighborhood, they were concerned about drugs, the small-business people in his community needed help. I mean, it was bang, bang, bang — we didn’t have a thing that we disagreed with at all. But we haven’t communicated — and that’s what we need to talk about.”

Mr. Mullins added that the problem is fundamentally deeper than simply putting up minority candidates to run.

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Stephen Dinan

Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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