WASHINGTON -- Perhaps this explains why Republican Allen West was so reluctant to concede last month’s election — he lost his shirt, er, seat.
The Florida congressman spent $17.8 million trying to hang onto a seat in Congress, more than four times as much as did the Democrat who beat him, Patrick Murphy, according to federal campaign finance records released Friday. (It took two weeks and urging by his colleagues for West to concede the race, which was not close enough to trigger an automatic recount.)
The West-Murphy race to represent the Palm Beach County-based seat was by far the most expensive congressional race in Florida, where pricey television markets bump up the cost of running for a seat, and where a national figure like West can tap a vast fundraising network in a bid for office.
It was also the most expensive House race in the country. Just two House members raised more money than West: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who raised $21.8 million; and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who ran for president and raised $25 million.
But Murphy, a 29-year-old businessman in his first political race, also tapped into the national liberal disdain for West, raising $4.6 million. Murphy was third in fundraising in Florida House races behind former Rep. Alan Grayson, who raised and loaned himself $5.2 million to retake a congressional seat in Central Florida, Federal Election Commission records show.
West has $1.5 million remaining in his campaign account. That’s about how much candidates raise and spend on average in U.S. House contests. West even raised more than Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who raised $12.9 million to spend on his successful statewide race in Florida.
West on Friday suggested he was unlikely to disappear from politics, despite his defeat.
“This is my final weekly update from our congressional office, but it is by no means my final weekly update,” he wrote in his weekly note to constituents. “When one door closes, another opens and we shall continue to advocate for truth, the restoration of this republic, and promote Constitutional conservative principles in the new year.”
Nationwide, House candidates raised more than $1 billion to spend on their campaigns. Of that, Florida House candidates raised more than $83 million and spent $79 million in their races. Another $22.3 million was spent in the U.S. Senate race that Nelson, the incumbent, won handily over Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.
Neither total factors in spending by outside groups on Florida House and Senate races, or the barrels of cash each of the presidential candidates raised and spent in the swing state.
In the Sarasota-Bradenton area, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, raised $2.5 million to hold onto his seat; Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald raised $1.5 million.
Other contested Florida House contests also had big price tags. In South Florida, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, a Democrat, raised $3.4 million to beat former state Sen. Adam Hasner, a Republican who raised $3.3 million. Frankel will represent the seat West once held.
South Florida candidates with little opposition had small coffers. That includes Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who spent $552,000, and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, who raised $652,000.
The exception was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the head of the Democratic National Committee, who raised $3.6 million. Her opponent, Karen Harrington, raised $1.6 million. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, had only token opposition, but headed up the influential Foreign Affairs Committee, and raised $2 million. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, also had little opposition and raised $556,000.
The race between embattled Republican Rep. David Rivera, who lost his bid to Democrat Joe Garcia, also wasn’t a pricey one. Rivera, who raised $1.8 million in his 2010 winning bid for the seat, was only able to muster up $609,000 in 2012. Garcia raised $1.1 million.