THE COMPANY ALLEN WEST KEEPS, CONT’D…. Following up on an item from the weekend, there’s no shortage of extremists seeking key public offices this year, but even by 2010 standards, Florida congressional candidate Allen West (R) stands out as someone who seems unhinged to an almost dangerous degree.

West first gained notoriety during his military service in Iraq, when he was forced to retire from the Army for engaging in abusive interrogation techniques. More recently, he’s incorporated violent rhetoric into his campaign speeches, and made demonstrably ridiculous claims about his own background.

Friday night, the story got considerably worse. NBC News ran a report documenting West’s background associating with a violent gang of criminals, which the Justice Department believes is involved in drug running, arson, prostitution, robbery, and murder.

Yesterday, things managed to get even worse, still. West spoke at a public park in the South Florida district, and a 23-year-old videographer was on hand to record the candidate’s remarks, which is hardly an unusual modern campaign practice. But things got ugly when West’s gang allies were caught on tape harassing and threatening the Democratic staffer.

As the local NBC affiliate noted, “Threats can be heard on the video tape. The West supporters forced him to get back into his car.”

In the interests of keeping staffers from becoming victims of Republican violence, the Florida Democratic Party felt compelled to take the videographer off the campaign trail altogether yesterday.

Would now be a good time to note that violent biker gangs and congressional campaigns don’t mix?

Keep in mind, the GOP establishment doesn’t seem embarrassed by West’s candidacy at all. He’s been endorsed by Eric Cantor and Sarah Palin, and just this week, the NRCC touted West’s candidacy.

And as of now, West is favored to win in Florida’s 22nd congressional district.

It’s as if some kind of contagious madness has spread throughout much of the country.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.