He's out of office, but former Congressman Allen West is still attracting controversy.
This time it's over a speech he's scheduled to give Saturday night to one of the Broward School Board's advisory committees. A civic activist who's tangled before with West is outraged, arguing it's the wrong venue for the defeated one-term congressman, best known for his incendiary attacks on President Barack Obama and other Democrats.
"This is somebody who has no problem maligning and marginalizing and showing intolerance toward others," said activist Michael Rajner. "I just don't see Allen West being the kind of person and the character to be invited in. It's just outright offensive."
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U.S. Rep. Allen West, the Republican with strong tea party support, is known for his strong rhetoric. Here are some of his most notable comments.
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3911 Northwest 30th Avenue, Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33309, USA
On Wednesday, Rajner plans to appear before the School Board to ask its members to encourage the group that invited West to reconsider and cancel the appearance. Rajner views it as "clearly an attempt to help relaunch Allen West after he was defeated and kicked out of Congress."
Heidi Jameson, chairwoman of the School District's Gifted Advisory Council, told the School Board on Feb. 5 that her group was hosting West, who was one of two black Republicans in the U.S. House in 2011 and 2012, because it's Black History Month. The council is a group of parents focused on improving education for children who are identified as gifted or talented.
Video of her remarks shows her telling the board it would be a "non-political presentation." But the page on the Gifted Advisory Council website that advertises the event states that "throughout his time in Congress, West consistently stood for policies that would make the United States prosperous, strong and free, even when speaking up was not easy."
The website said West would talk about his "life story and conservative values."
During his two years in Congress, West was hailed by conservatives, especially in the tea party movement, and scorned by liberals — usually after he made statements that the right liked and the left hated. Among them: Saying he had "heard" there were 76 to 81 communists among his Democratic colleagues in Congress and suggesting Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels would be envious of the Democrats' "incredible propaganda machine."
Some of his sharpest vitriol was directed at U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, whom he called "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable" member of the House, labeled a "coward," said should "shut the heck up," and said she had "proven repeatedly that you are not a lady."
School Board member Katie Leach said she isn't sure if the council's speaker is within the board's purview to review. "They're all adults. If they have requested that he come to speak to one of their meetings to inform them on something, I certainly don't think we should preclude them from doing that if they feel he has something to add to the conversation about how we educate students who are gifted."
Vice President Joe Biden gave the commencement address to Cypress Bay High School last year when he was running for re-election. He was accompanied by Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, whose district includes Cypress Bay.
Leach said outside speakers don’t mean the School Board approves or disapproves what they’re saying. “Free speech is something that we have available to all of us,” she said. “You’re never going to be as educated as you can be if you don’t hear all sides.”
Rajner said West’s comments make him unfit for a School District platform. “I just find it reprehensible … with all the work the School District has done on bullying. Allen West is the one of the biggest bullies ever,” he said.
Rajner, who has served on several School Board advisory committees, is active in the Democratic Party and in the gay community. When West was invited in 2011 to speak before the Wilton Manors Business Association, Rajner spearheaded a protest that led to the event's cancellation.
West was elected to a Broward-Palm Beach County district in 2010. Facing a tough re-election battle, he moved last year from Plantation to Palm Beach Gardens and sought a second term in a northern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie county district. He narrowly lost.
The West appearance is a bit of a political hot potato, and aside from Leach few people were willing to discuss it. Among those who were unavailable or declining to comment: School Board Chairwoman Laurie Rich Levinson, Vice Chairwoman Patricia Good, Superintendent Robert Runcie, the gifted council's Jameson, and West.
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
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Get a refresher about some of West's most notable comments and take our poll on whether Saturday's speech should go ahead at Sun Sentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.
If you go
What: Appearance by former U.S. Rep. Allen West.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lauderdale Lakes Middle School, 3911 NW 30th Ave., Lauderdale Lakes
Admission: Open to the public