Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Once a rising star, Harris fights for credibility in Senate race

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A hero to some, a pariah to others, Katherine Harris parlayed her famous role in deciding the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush into two terms in the U.S. House and rising-star status in the Republican Party.

But her planned ascent to U.S. Senate seat this year hasn't been as easy.

State GOP leaders - including Gov. Jeb Bush - don't think the 49-year-old Sarasota congresswoman can win and tried to find someone else to run. Fundraising has lagged, frustrated campaign workers have defected in droves and the issues have been overshadowed by news of her dealings with a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

After pledging to spend $10 million of her own money on the race, Harris drew three last-minute, politically untested challengers for the Sept. 5 GOP primary but remains the heavy favorite in the race. Recent polls, though, show she probably won't be able to beat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

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