WASHINGTON -- The gloves are officially off in the race between Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy.
Less than a week after West's campaign released a brutal ad featuring Murphy's mugshot from a 2003 arrest for disorderly intoxication, Murphy's campaign hit back on Tuesday with an ad highlighting West's illegal actions in the military that ultimately led to him being relieved of his command.
"You need the facts about Allen West in 2003," says the narrator in the Murphy ad, which begins by showing a clip of West's ad from last week.
"West was criminally charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and relieved of his command. The final Army report: West 'performed illegal acts ... merited court martial ... faced 11 years in prison,'" continues the narrator. "Allen West. He just isn't who he says he is."
Ominous music plays throughout the ad, and an image of West snarling appears toward the end.
West was a U.S. Army Lt. Colonel when, in 2003, he shot his gun next to the head of an Iraqi detainee to try to scare him into giving information about a plot to attack West and his troops. He was later charged with assault in a military court and faced up to 11 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. Ultimately, he was fined $5,000 and retired with full benefits.
Erin Moffet, the communications director for Murphy's campaign, said the point of the ad, called "2003," is to get the facts straight on what happened in that year for both West and Murphy, which was also the year of Murphy's college arrest.
"Allen West misrepresented the teenage mistake of Patrick Murphy in his latest desperate attack ad," Moffet said in a statement. "In his ad, West also omitted key facts regarding his own record, and opened the door to a discussion of the circumstances leading to him being relieved of his command. This ad clarifies the events that took place in 2003."
West campaign spokesman Tim Edson responded by calling Murphy a "terrible person" for attacking West for trying to protect his troops.
"What kind of man who has never worn the uniform attacks an honorably discharged combat veteran for acting to protect the lives of his soldiers?" Edson said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "A desperate man and apparently the same kind of man who calls a decorated combat veteran a coward, gets into drunken bar fights, verbally assaults police officers and then uses his family's connections to get out of trouble. Patrick Murphy is a spoiled brat and a truly terrible person."
West and Murphy are locked in a tight race in Florida's 18th District. Murphy's campaign released a poll on Monday showing him leading West by 9 points, while West's campaign released a poll last week that showed him leading Murphy by 9 points. Another poll released in August showed them to be statistically tied.