- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

SARASOTA, Fla. Personality or politician? Katherine Harris is hoping the former will effect the latter as she strives toward Washington and the congressional seat of retiring Republican Rep. Dan Miller.
"I am a politician," Mrs. Harris said before a recent lunchtime campaign appearance, her third of the day. This one was before a star-struck gathering of the Sarasota Bay Republican Women's Club.
The petite partisan firebrand is a hero in Republican circles. On this day, she is designer-black-clad from head to toe, the familiar smile pasted to her face in earnestness as she works the banquet room of Troyer's Dutch Heritage restaurant.
"I have knocked on doors, stood on street corners and visited homes," Mrs. Harris said. "Of course, I like to call in advance and give some kind of notice people are kind of shocked when I am standing on their doorstep."
Since last spring, Florida's former secretary of state has also hit luncheons, fund-raisers and coffees, rounding up support in a district where registered Republican voters outgun Democrats 49 percent to 33 percent.
When the chair of the club introduces the 44-year-old Florida native to the 30 or so club members present, she is called "an American heroine."
Mrs. Harris' official duty in Election 2000 was to certify the winner of the state's 25 presidential Electoral College votes. Balloting trouble and voter error were followed by multiple recounts and court battles to decide the winner.
Democrats demanded that Mrs. Harris recuse herself from the process because she was a co-chairman of Mr. Bush's Florida campaign committee. She refused, citing her mandatory duty as secretary of state to uphold the office
And Katherine Harris, the personality, was born.
"I hear about it every day still," she said. "The questions are always different and no doubt it will be part of my life for the rest of my life."
"But I really feel more like a candidate, because I also get to discuss issues about six times a day. We run like we are a million miles behind."
And then there is the book addressing her fame and infamy, "Center of the Storm," which she has been promoting. She has taken some heat from Republicans in her district for selling books rather than campaigning nonstop.
The book is hard to find in Sarasota: "We get it and people buy five or six copies at a time," a clerk groaned at the local Barnes & Noble.
Democrats local and national hate her with equal intensity. Even when they get past her performance in the 2000 election, they cite illegal campaign contributions when Mrs. Harris was a state legislator.
"She is being used by [national] Republicans and Democrats to raise money for two different reasons," said Tramm Hudson, chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party.
So it is expected that when Mrs. Harris walks through the restaurant after the luncheon, both Democratic and Republican heads turn in recognition.
"She is so tiny," said a couple of men sitting at a table, almost in unison.
But her campaign coffers are predictably fat, thanks to fund-raisers both locally and in Washington, where she has been feted routinely over the past two years.
Elect Harris has raised nearly $3 million while her opponent, Jan Schneider, has raised about a tenth of that amount.
Miss Schneider is a true-blue Democrat, a former Yale Law School classmate and pal of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton recently gave $5,000 to Miss Schneider's campaign.
Candice McElyea, who lost last month's Democratic primary to Miss Schneider, threw her support behind Mrs. Harris.

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