Bush Crony Plans Senate Run

Republican U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, who as Florida’s secretary of state played a pivotal role in the disputed 2000 presidential election recount, said on Tuesday she will run for the U.S. Senate next year.

“The time has come to launch a campaign for the United States Senate,” Harris said in a brief statement.

Harris, first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, will seek the Republican nomination to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

Harris drew scorn and praise as Florida’s secretary of state in handling the messy 2000 presidential contest in her state, which Republican George W. Bush eventually won over Democrat Al Gore by 537 votes.

Harris co-chaired Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign in Florida.

As secretary of state, it was her job to certify the results and declare the winner in Florida. She did so over objections by Gore who had sought more time for a recount.

The case and the presidency was ultimately decided in Bush’s favor by a divided U.S. Supreme Court after Gore backers denounced Harris as a “political hack” and “a crony” of Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Harris remains a polarizing figure. She won re-election to a second House term in November with 55 percent of the vote in a Republican-leaning district.

Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, predicted a Harris-Nelson contest would be “expensive and very competitive.”

“Katherine Harris does excite the (Republican) political base,” Duffy said. “But her running will actually be good for Nelson’s pocketbook because a lot of Democrats will contribute for a chance to see her defeated.”

Duffy described Harris as the first major Republican challenger for Nelson’s Senate seat, though a number of lesser known party members are at least considering a bid.

Harris said in her statement, “I will formally announce my candidacy, and key members of my campaign team, in July — humbled by the task ahead but knowing in my heart that one of the greatest honors in life is having the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Nelson, said, “Bill Nelson … has always strived to help everyday people and has represented mainstream Florida values. Katherine Harris represents only the radical right.”