One of the GOP’s handful of black candidates for Congress condemned President Barack Obama for exploiting race for political gain. 

Allen West, the Republican challenging Rep. Ron Klein (D) in Florida’s 22nd congressional district, sharply criticized the Obama administration for having declined prosecuting the New Black Panther Party on voter tampering charges allegedly for political reasons.

“For an Administration that promised a new era in race relations, Obama and the Democrats in Congress have demonstrated that race will continually be exploited for political gain,” West said in a statement. 

West was picking up on a meme that’s made its way through conservative blogs in recent days, based on whistleblower claims made by a former Justice Department employee. Charges against the New Black Panthers for their actions on Election Day 2008 weren’t pursued because of racial politics, the employee charged. The Justice Department says charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. 

West drew on his own history with race to condemn the New Black Panthers, as well as other black Democrats who he said had “remained silent” when he’d been called racially-tinged names during the course of his campaign. 

“The die has been cast in this election cycle — Democrats and their liberal progressive socialist allies will continue to play the race card when it is politically expedient,” West said. “I demand an investigation of the New Black Panther Party and the placement of it, along with any extremist group, onto the Terrorist Watch List if warranted. If that is not done prior to my taking the oath of office as a United States Congressman, it will happen soon thereafter.”

The words have more weight coming from this candidate, who’s seen as one of two black Republican candidates who have a good shot at making their way to Washington next year. 

West is seen as a top challenger to Klein after having come closer than expected to the incumbent Democrat in 2008. Republican Tim Scott is seen as likely to win his race in South Carolina’s first congressional district this fall, too. Either man, if elected, would be the first GOP African-American lawmaker in Congress since former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who retired in 2003.

—Updated at 11:30 p.m. July 10

This post has been corrected from an earlier version