The rapid rise and fall of Katherine Harris

For one brief shining moment, Katherine Harris was the Republicans’ hero. “St. Katherine” would not be putting it too strongly, As Florida secretary of state, Harris played a pivotal role in getting them into the White House, running the recount that gave George W. Bush the 2000 election.

She turned that moment of fame into a successful run for the U.S. House. Republican elders expected she would be content to be a party backbencher, where her occasional moments of loopiness _ such as announcing a nonexistent terrorist plot against Carmel, Ind. _ could be overlooked.

But then she announced she would seek the GOP Senate nomination Sept. 5 to run against the popular Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Uh-oh. Harris went from saint to loose cannon.

Republican leaders from the White House on down, especially including Gov. (and first brother) Jeb Bush, tried to talk her out of the race. Meanwhile, a vigorous search by the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee embarrassingly failed to find a high-profile candidate to run against her. And now she’s a fair bet to win the primary, a prospect, writes USA Today, “inspiring dread among many in her party. Whether they measure by fund-raising, polls, disarray, ethics, strange behavior or potential to polarize, they see trouble.”

And then there is the turmoil in her House and campaign staff. Under the headline “Another One Bites the Dust,” the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call began a story on the resignation of her chief of staff: “Surprise, surprise: More staff upheaval in the office of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.).”

This is not the only attention she gets in Washington. She has become a cult favorite of the Web site Wonkette, which runs sexy pictures of the attractive Harris with snarky and mildly lewd comments.

For such a brief career in politics, Harris has accumulated a remarkable range of enemies, from her own party’s leadership to liberal Democrats still seething over 2000. But, as the old saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.

Harris, who has an interest in training guide dogs, says that, if elected, she will get a dog that will accompany her everywhere in the Capitol.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)