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Backing Harris? Her list shortens

Her campaign touts U.S. House members as endorsing her. They didn't then, or don't now.

By ANITA KUMAR
Published August 17, 2006


In the U.S. Senate primary, Rep. Katherine Harris has been touting key political endorsements from fellow Republican lawmakers. The problem is, some of them never endorsed her.

Several members of the U.S. House called the Harris campaign to complain Wednesday after the St. Petersburg Times notified them of the endorsements listed on Harris' Web site. Minutes later, their names were removed.

The list of politicians whose names came down includes Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, Cliff Stearns of Ocala, Mark Foley of West Palm Beach and Jeff Miller of the Panhandle.

"The congressman has not made an endorsement in the Senate race," Miller spokesman Dan McFaul said.

Foley spokesman Jason Kello said his office did not allow Foley's name to be used nor did it ask for the name to be removed. He said Harris' staff told him they made a mistake.

Harris' campaign sent a letter to most House members last week, soliciting their endorsement in writing, which would allow the staff to use their names on literature and the Web site. But those contacted Wednesday said they never sent the letter back.

"Having run in a primary myself, I am reluctant to endorse one Republican over another," Stearns said. "I did receive the letter asking for my support, but I did not sign or return it."

Harris, a two-time congresswoman from Longboat Key, has had a tough time soliciting support even from members of her own party. Several prominent Republicans, including Gov. Jeb Bush, have publicly criticized her campaign and actively sought another candidate for the primary.

"They had originally said yes, but then they called to say they weren't endorsing anyone," Harris said Wednesday night at a political gathering in Winter Park.

A few minutes later, Harris said she checked with her staff and learned that the lawmakers had endorsed her but that it was before they knew she had three opponents in the Sept. 5 primary.

Harris is considered the front-runner in the primary against retired Adm. LeRoy Collins, Orlando lawyer Will McBride and Safety Harbor developer Peter Monroe, who all announced their intent to run on the last day to qualify in May. The winner faces Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Harris has undergone a huge turnover in staff. Some staff members for the House members listed as endorsing her said the current employees blamed their predecessors for the mistake.

Chris Ingram and Glenn Hodas, who both recently worked on the Harris campaign, said Harris told them to use the endorsements of members even if they hadn't confirmed their support in writing.

Ingram now works for Harris' primary opponent, Collins.

Times staff writer Alisa Ulferts contributed to this report. Anita Kumar can be reached at akumar@sptimes.com or 202 463-0576.