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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

Katherine Harris kicks off U.S. Senate campaign

August 9, 2005

By Robert Green

SARASOTA, Fla. (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Rep. Katherine
Harris, famed as Florida’s top election official during the
disputed 2000 presidential vote, opened her campaign for the
U.S. Senate on Tuesday and promised to defeat Democratic
incumbent Bill Nelson of Florida.

“Our polls show that when we get our message out, Florida’s
message, we will win,” Harris told about 100 supporters at a
community center in her home town of Sarasota.

Most statewide opinion polls show Harris trailing Nelson, a
former congressman and state insurance commissioner who was
elected to the Senate in 2000.

“I want to say I’m trailing by an eyelash, but I know what
you guys (the media) would do with that,” Harris said.

She was referring to frequent jokes about her makeup while
she was Florida’s secretary of state during the 2000
presidential election.

In a radio interview last week, Harris blamed newspapers
for the jokes and said some had colorized her photos to make it
look like she was wearing more makeup than she was. She did not
name any specific papers.

As Florida’s top election official during the 2000
election, Harris certified Republican George W. Bush as the
state’s winner by 537 votes, over the objections of Democratic
candidate Al Gore, who sought more time for a recount.

Democrats vilified Harris and said her decision had been
influenced by her role as Bush’s Florida campaign co-chair, but
she was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Harris was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in
2002 from a heavily Republican district. Last year, she passed
up a chance to run for the U.S. Senate and was reelected to the
House while Republican Mel Martinez won the Senate race.

The White House and some Republican leaders have tried to
recruit other party candidates to run against Harris this time,
fearing her polarizing role in the 2000 election would alienate
moderate voters. But no other Republican has entered the race.

Harris, 48, said she would run as a conservative but
progressive candidate. After her announcement, she began a
five-day campaign tour of 10 major Florida cities from Miami to
Pensacola.