Katherine Harris Won't 'Kowtow' to GOP Leaders
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
WEST PALM BEACH -- Katherine Harris thinks she knows why she's been shunned by her party leadership and shirked by big donors, and it has nothing to do with political platforms.
"Perhaps in some elite circles, the reason I have not gotten more support...is because they don't believe I can be controlled," Harris said today during a speech to the nonpartisan Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.
Harris, a two-term congresswoman who as secretary of state gained national notoriety for her role in the 2000 presidential recount that handed the race to George W. Bush, said she would not "kowtow" to the administration or her party.
"I will be beholden to no one but the people, not the party elite, not the press and certainly not even doing what's popular," said Harris, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. "I'm going to be doing what's right.
"I'm not part of that club," she said, referring to what she called "the Beltway boys."
Harris' campaign has been dogged by staff turnovers and fundraising problems. She was criticized for accepting a $32,000 illegal contribution from defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty to bribing former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.
Gov. Jeb Bush has publicly said he didn't think she could beat the incumbent, and even tried to convince House Speaker Allan Bense to enter the race for the Republican nomination but he declined.
"When he (the governor) weighed in on the race, I think it hurt her significantly," U.S. Rep. Mark Foley said after Harris' speech. "She's had a lot of distractions thrown her way and she's persevered, so I give her a lot of credit."
Three relative unknowns have since filed to run for the nomination: LeRoy Collins Jr., son of former Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins; Peter Monroe, a Pinellas County developer who helped manage the government's savings and loan bailout; and Windermere lawyer William "Will" McBride.
But even without her party leadership's support, Harris has pressed on, announcing she would spend $10 million of her own money on the campaign when fundraising lagged.
Asked how she felt about the governor's cold shoulder, she shrugged and said, "He had a friend that he wanted to run."
"But I'm in the race and I'm hopeful that the governor will be supportive, confident that down the road he shall be," Harris said.
The governor's office referred questions to the Republican Party of Florida.
Party spokesman Jeff Sadosky echoed the governor's previous comments that Harris has spent too much of her campaign focusing on herself and not enough on the issues and Nelson's voting record.
"Like the governor has said to Congresswoman Harris, and we feel it applies to all Republican candidates for this seat, when this race is about Bill Nelson it becomes a vulnerable election for him," Sadosky said.
Harris told the crowd she would take the governor's advice.
She later defended her role in the presidential recount that brought her scorn from Democrats and praise from Republicans, noting that at one point she thought "maybe for once I could be part of the club...part of the elite."
"I realize that I'm a caricature to some degree," Harris said. "But I would never sacrifice my integrity...I simply obeyed the law."
Harris criticized Nelson for his voting record, noting that he's supported increasing taxes.
"When I'm your senator, God willing...we're going to have tax reform," she said. "We're not going to have the most onerous tax system in the world."
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin questioned Harris' comments about being beholden only to the people, describing her as a "bribe-taker" for accepting money from the defense contractor and said "as a candidate, she has no credibility whatsoever."
In closing her hour-long speech, Harris thanked the crowd for attending.
"No matter if you're for me or against me, I just appreciate that you stayed and you listened," Harris said. Nearly half the crowd had already left.
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