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Posted at 4:14 PM ET, 02/23/2011

Allen West to keynote GOP dinner

By Tim Craig
Tim Craig

U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), the hard-charging freshman congressman who is a making waves in conservative circles, will deliver the keynote speech at the D.C. Republican Committee gala March 31.

West, who is closely aligned with the tea party, is one of two African-American Republicans in Congress. Two weeks ago, it was reported by Fox News and others that West "rocked' the Conservative Political Action Conference when he delivered a stinging critique of President Obama's domestic and foreign agenda.

A 22-year Army veteran, West defeated former congressman Ron Klein after he found support among anti-establishment groups, including the tea party and motorcycle clubs, according to a recent Washington Post profile.

He made national news after the election when he hired a Florida conservative talk radio commentator as his chief of staff. She quickly resigned following an uproar over inflammatory comments she made.

Wes responded by saying he was now "even more focused that this liberal, progressive, socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine that's out there is soundly brought to its knees."

West's conservative views seemingly put him at odds with leaders of the local District GOP, who often stress they are far more moderate than their national peers. And their decision to invite West to the party's marquee event of the year is becoming fodder for Democrats.

Rick Rosendall, vice-president for political affairs for the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, posted on GLAA's blog that the local GOP's decision to host West is a sign its "pursuit of irrelevance continues."

"Allen West?! This reminds me of the Illinois GOP recruiting Alan Keyes from Maryland to run against Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate in 2004," Rosendall wrote. "I mean, 'sure, the guy's an extremist rabble rouser, but hey, he's black! That'll convince D.C. voters for sure.'"

Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, declined comment on Rosendall's inflammatory blog posting. But Craney defended the local party's decision, saying District Republicans are trying to build ties with Republicans in Congress.

"Regardless of his politics, he's a dynamic speaker," Craney said. "And he's a freshman, someone we would love to build a relationship with nationally."

To be sure, West will help the D.C. Republican Committee sell tickets to the annual fundraising event. But the dinner will also likely generate some local media coverage, just as local Republicans are preparing for the final push toward the April 26 special election for an at-large seat on the council.

School board member Patrick Mara, a Republican, is widely viewed as having a serious shot to pick up the seat currently held by interim member Sekou Biddle (D). In his race, Mara is expected to play up his liberal views on many social issues while trying to distance himself from the national GOP.

In an interview, Mara said he also supports having West keynote the GOP dinner.

"We should be talking with all Republicans on The Hill," Mara, who works as a lobbyist. "Right now, the (D.C. government) is not engaging Republicans on The Hill, and this is just another opportunity to meet with another Republican on Capitol Hill."

When asked what he thinks of West's tea-party brand of politics, Mara said he's focused on what's going on "locally."

To be honest, I don't pay a lot of attention to what is going on nationally or even other states," Mara said. "My focus is on Washington D.C."."

By Tim Craig  | February 23, 2011; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  GOP, 2010 District Election, D.C. Council  
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