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Harris and company ride wave of fame


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001

Washington is alive with the lawyers, public officials and spin doctors we all came to know so well last fall during the election from hell.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is almost as well known as the new president and his younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

"She is the star of the hour," said Pat Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, on Friday. "She is invited to all of the parties."

She's making the rounds of parties thrown by the Christian Coalition, ambassadors and members of Congress, and all kinds of smaller parties in addition to the more widely publicized inaugural balls.

Harris has agreed to help Republican members of Congress raise campaign money. Roberts said Harris was told this week that her presence at a campaign fundraiser would be a bigger draw than having congressional leaders present.

"Everyone wants their picture made with her, wants to shake her hand and compliment her on a job done right," Roberts added.

Florida's governor, the fellow that President-elect George W. Bush described as "the boy" during a CNN interview Thursday, spent Friday night at Blair House and will sleep in the White House tonight.

Then he'll head back to Florida and return to the daily business of running the state. He's there to help his brother celebrate but is declining all national interviews.

Barry Richard, the Tallahassee lawyer who represented the president-elect, also is in town for the festivities. Richard, a Democrat, will be the guest of honor at a reception today that his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, is throwing.

Richard says he's never had a conversation with Harris, but both of them were among those invited to a Friday night party thrown by former Secretary of State James Baker for former President George Bush. Roberts said many of those invited participated in the Florida recount.

Richard said he's been quite surprised at the public reaction he gets. He is frequently recognized as a result of so many televised court proceedings.

Among those interested are those who want Richard to write a book about what went on behind the scenes during the historic legal fight.

And so he is talking with a New York agent and already has written the first chapter.

On Sunday, Richard will miss a reunion party for all of the recount lawyers.

"We need to get home to our babies," Richard said from his Washington hotel in a telephone interview.

He and wife, Allison, have never spent three nights away from their 21/2-year- old twins. This is their first inauguration.

"It's something I have avoided in the past, like Times Square on New Year's Eve, but this is fun because we were so much a part of the litigation leading up to it and we're celebrating. It's the biggest celebration any of my clients ever had."

Richard said he hopes to meet the president-elect but isn't sure Bush will have time.

"He hasn't invited us by the house," Richard added.

The rest of us are condemned to spend the weekend in Florida -- not a bad deal when you look at the weather and the crowds in Washington.

We are all going to spend the rest of our lives listening to various versions of what went wrong with the election.

A task force appointed by Jeb Bush is deep into reviewing problems and looking for a solution likely to change the way most Floridians cast their ballots in 2002.

Legislative committees will shortly get into the act as they consider bills to fix the law and a budget to help buy new equipment.

Our 15 minutes of fame may never end.

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