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    Around the state: Harris nominated; gay rights repeal bid trails

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
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    published September 11, 2002

    Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the sweetheart of the GOP but a Democratic target because of her role in Florida's 2000 recount that won the presidency for George W. Bush, won nomination for Congress Tuesday in Florida's 13th District.

    Elsewhere, a measure that would repeal a Miami-Dade County ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination appeared to be failing.

    Harris collected about 68 percent of the vote to defeat former television anchorman John C. Hill in their race for the congressional nomination. Both are from Sarasota.

    Among the four Democratic candidates, all from Sarasota, vying to oppose Harris in November, lawyer Jan Schneider was nominated with 45 percent of the vote to the Rev. Charles McKenzie Jr.'s 24 percent.

    In Miami-Dade, with nearly half the votes counted, the vote was running about 55 percent against repealing an amendment to the county's human rights ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, lending and public accommodations.

    Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, an outspoken supporter of the law, said the numbers reinforced Miami's image as a progressive world-class city.

    "All ethnic groups were on the same page today," Penelas said. "There's no room for discrimination of any sort -- we're a community of inclusion and we sent a very strong message today."

    Four incumbent Republican congressmen were renominated.

    In the 4th District, Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville defeated retired air traffic controller Deborah Katz Pueschel with 89 percent of the vote. Crenshaw has only a write-in opponent in November.

    Rep. Dave Weldon of Palm Bay defeated Davenport businessman Gerry Newby with about 84 percent of the vote in the 15th District on the central Atlantic coast. Weldon will face Democrat Jim Tso, a Sebastian business consultant.

    Rep. Jeff Miller of Chumuckla figured to have a tough challenge but got 64 percent of the vote against retired Air Force Col. Mike Francisco of Fort Walton Beach, in the Panhandle's 1st District Republican primary. The winner faces Democrat Bert Oram, a Pace lawyer.

    In South Florida's 18th District, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami took about 85 percent of the vote against Marathon retiree May Chote for the GOP nomination. Ros-Lehtinen will face Democrat Ray Chote -- May Chote's husband -- and an unaffiliated candidate, Key West surety bond writer Orin Opperman.

    In a 6th District race between two Gainesville Democrats, engineer David Bruderly beat lawn service owner James O'Neill, 58 percent to 42 percent. Bruderly will face Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Ocala.

    In Miami, state Rep. Annie Betancourt led former television reporter Lorna Virgili with 73 percent of the early vote for the 25th District's Democratic nomination. The winner will face Republican state Sen. Mario-Diaz Balart in one of Florida's two new districts.

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