- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

ARCADIA, Fla. — Rep. Katherine Harris has promised fellow Republicans that she will make “a major announcement” sometime this week about her troubled U.S. Senate campaign.

Whether it is to say that the Florida Republican will stay in the race or get out, that announcement follows a roller coaster of meetings and phone calls in recent days among concerned party activists across the state and the nation.

Mrs. Harris’ campaign to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, has been considered an uphill battle from the start. Some Republican always have feared that she could be too polarizing because of the role she played as Florida’s secretary of state in 2000, overseeing the contested presidential elections and certifying George W. Bush as the winner.

Those concerns have been increased by a recent campaign-finance scandal.

Mitchell Wade, who entered a guilty plea in the bribery case that brought down ex-California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, admitted to illegally funneling $32,000 in campaign contributions to Mrs. Harris by using names of company employees and their families to bypass contribution limits.

Mrs. Harris unsuccessfully had sought $10 million in budget earmarks at the request of Wade’s company, and one of her staffers had left to take a job at Wade’s firm, MZM Inc.

But the congresswoman is not accused of knowingly accepting contributions, and her campaign has given up all the money it received in connection with Wade and MZM.

“There’s no way you can know that somebody has reimbursed their employees,” Mrs. Harris said. “I didn’t know.”

Statewide, polls have been showing almost no Democratic support for Mrs. Harris and a preference for Mr. Nelson by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 among independents. And as of the last campaign reporting period, Mrs. Harris had raised about $2.5 million, compared with Mr. Nelson’s $10 million.

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