Florida GOP in disarray over Katherine Harris Senate race

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Florida GOP in disarray over Katherine Harris Senate race

Post by RebLem » Fri May 12, 2006 1:05 am

Rumors Swirl As Deadline To Challenge Harris Nears
By WILLIAM MARCH wmarch@tampatrib.com
Published: May 12, 2006

TAMPA - The Republican U.S. Senate primary seemed to dissolve into a welter of confusion Thursday as several potential candidates considered last-minute challenges to the one whom top Republicans don't seem to want: Katherine Harris.

Several possible opponents were expected to jump in, or were considering jumping in, against Harris by today's noon deadline.

It appeared the makeup of the primary would be decided this morning in the state Division of Elections offices in Tallahassee, where candidates go to qualify.

At least one potential Harris opponent, state Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, said he intends to go to see who else files before deciding whether to run.

Ross was concerned about a wealthy Orlando lawyer, William McBride, who Republican sources were saying had promised to fund his campaign with $5 million of his own money.

"I'm going to go up there early in the morning and see how qualifying goes," Ross said late Thursday. "If it's more than two in the primary, then I think Katherine Harris wins. My best shot is going head to head with Katherine Harris."

McBride couldn't be reached late Thursday.

Most others considering the race lack the political stature to make it seem likely they could take the nomination away from Harris.

Complicating the picture was a flurry of rumors Thursday about possible big-name candidates, including Gov. Jeb Bush and former Congressman Porter Goss of Sanibel, who just stepped down as head of the CIA. As late as this week, Bush had firmly ruled out running; Goss has said he wants to retire.

Ross and the others were reacting to the vacuum left by the failure of state House Speaker Allan Bense to file in the race.

Republican Party leaders including Bush had pinned their hopes on Bense to take the nomination away from Harris, who they believe can't unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"It pains me that in one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, we appear to be conceding tomorrow at noon," Ross said Thursday.

A three-term state representative and former Polk County Republican Party chairman, Ross said he would be "the Rocky Balboa of this race" against Nelson. But he said he could take on Harris in the primary.

"I wouldn't enter the race unless I knew I could win," he said.

Ross made plans last year to leave his House seat to run for state chief financial officer. He was forestalled by a state Ethics Commission ruling that his ownership of a law firm would create a conflict of interest. But he's made it plain he has higher political ambitions.

Meanwhile, Safety Harbor developer and former HUD official Peter H. Monroe said he intends to file qualifying papers in Tallahassee by today's noon deadline, after flying back to Florida from Utah late Thursday.

Monroe, 62, has had a career that took him back and forth between development jobs in Florida and Washington, where he has held high-level positions at HUD and with the Resolution Trust Corp., the agency set up in 1989 to handle disposition of failing savings and loans.

Leroy Collins Jr., 71, of Tampa, a retired Navy officer and son of the late Florida Gov. Leroy Collins, said Thursday he also might drive to Tallahassee this morning to file.

Like Monroe, he has no experience or past activity in politics.

Another candidate who has been active for months in the race but who does not appear to have raised any money for a campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission records, is Belinda Noah of Tampa.

Noah couldn't be reached for comment Thursday night about her plans for qualifying.

Ross had hoped to talk about the race Thursday night to Gov. Jeb Bush, the person most likely to be able to deliver the kind of fast fundraising clout a candidate would need to challenge Harris after entering the race this late.

He said he wasn't able to reach Bush to ask for a commitment for support.

He acknowledged that he's a long shot in the race, but said it might help establish his credentials for a future statewide race.

Ross mentioned Attorney General Charlie Crist, now one of two leading candidates in the Republican candidate for governor, whose first statewide reputation came from running and losing in a long-shot challenge to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham in 1998.

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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 8:07 am

Just watch what kind of ballots they will use.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 12:08 pm

I'll say! This is almost too delicious. Too bad they don't discuss how this state of affairs came to pass. Nelson is vulnerable. Florida has enough Republicans to make this an easy win. Yet, like the article says, they are conceding the state to Democrats.
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 12:42 pm

Now if she were to run for president...

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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