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Harris Faces Tough Fight in Florida Primary

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Harris Faces Tough Fight in Florida Primary


Harris Faces Tough Fight in Florida Primary

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Congressional primaries will be held in a few states tomorrow, Florida among them, where Republican voters will choose their nominee to challenge incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, the Democrat.

The person leading the polls among Republicans as of a few weeks ago is Katherine Harris. You remember that name because she was Florida's secretary of state, the woman who certified the vote count in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Tom Fiedler is executive editor of The Miami Herald and the author of the Almanac of Florida Politics. Tom Fiedler, not too long ago some Republicans were not very happy to have Ms. Harris in this race. Explain what happens.

Mr. TOM FIEDLER (Executive Editor, The Miami Herald): I would say that that number hasn't decreased an awful lot. She's running in a primary against three other not only neophytes but total unknowns in the Republican primary.

And she has, seems to have, leveled off at about, oh, 35 to 40 percent of the electorate so in a Republican primary that's not going to propel her very strongly into the general election.

CHADWICK: Why is it they're so skittish about Ms. Harris?

Mr. FIEDLER: I think it's primarily electability. They see this election year as having been a real opportunity to take over another senate seat. The incumbent, Bill Nelson, although he looks very solid now, even when you look into the numbers he ought to be vulnerable to defeat, even in a year when Republicans nationally haven't been doing very well.

But right from the beginning, the Republican establishment here and primarily Governor Bush - whose popularity remains very high - had treated her and explicitly had said that Katherine Harris just doesn't have the ability to win. And he solicited a number of others, to get into the primary against her, unsuccessfully.

And so I think Republicans are by and large just discouraged to have her as the candidate.

CHADWICK: But, you know, she did win. She won a congressional seat. She left the secretary of state's office, ran for Congress, won.

Mr. FIEDLER: Well, she did. But the congressional seat that she won is centered in Sarasota. And Sarasota is one of the most Republican, solidly Republican, counties in the state of Florida. So it would be virtually unheard of that she would not have won in that senate seat.

But again it has not translated statewide.

CHADWICK: Have you seen her out campaigning? I wonder what she's like, giving speeches and shaking hands, all that sort of stuff.

Mr. FIEDLER: In this campaign, largely because she has been hounded by ethical issues - she was involved, tangentially, in taking favors from one of the Republican lobbyists who has since gone to jail. Again, her reaction to that has been largely to hunker down.

And she's only gone to campaign in front of those audiences where she is assured a relatively friendly reception. She hasn't gone out in general very much at all.

CHADWICK: Well, the politics may not work out but it sounds like it's going to be a heck of a telenovella.

Tom Fiedler is the executive editor of The Miami Herald. Tom, thank you.

Mr. FIEDLER: It was my pleasure.

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