By ALISA ULFERTS
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2001
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Democrats urged Secretary of State Katherine Harris to resign Wednesday, the day after media groups found Republican political documents on her office computers.
Democrats are especially puzzled about a query someone in Harris' office ran on Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente a week after the election. The record came off the Secretary of State Web site and notes Pariente's campaign qualifications and treasurer.
"We don't know what it means but it raises questions," said Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch. One of those questions is whether it marked an early attempt to glean information about the justices who ultimately heard the cases challenging the outcome of the disputed election.
"It makes you wonder," Welch said.
Harris spokesman David Host said Harris didn't know who ran that query or why. The St. Petersburg Times found no indication whether that query represented official business in her office or unofficial political scrutiny. The record was one of tens of thousands of records unearthed during a review by a Minneapolis company of hard drives in Harris' office.
Those records included a political speech and talking points prepared for Harris that supported then-candidate George W. Bush.
One speech prepared for Harris said: "I am a bit biased -- after all -- I co-chair the campaign effort of George W. Bush."
Someone, it was not immediately clear who, used Harris' computers to send e-mail under the name "gopspinner."
All of that is enough to convince Democrats that Harris should resign. Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe accused her of illegally using her office to call November's contested election for George W. Bush.
"Katherine Harris has violated the public trust with the Florida voters and proven she is not capable of being an impartial Secretary of State. It's time for her to end the charade and the nightmare of her tenure and simply resign," Poe said in a statement.
Host called the Democrats' demand "absurd." Through him, Harris said: "I am focusing my efforts on the concerns of the people of Florida. Mr. Poe has focused on divisive partisan politics."
Republican Party spokesman Daryl Duwe called the Democrats' call "a real reach."
"Surely they're not saying that every Democratic official who supported Gore would withstand that kind of voluntary scrutiny."
More than a dozen media groups, including the St. Petersburg Times, hired Ontrack Data International to recover computer records after questions arose recently about whether Harris' office deleted files in the controversial aftermath of the Nov. 7 election.
Harris had asked two Republican friends to help her draft public statements on state computers during the month-long recount.
Ontrack said Tuesday that some information had been deleted from computer hard drives in Harris' office, but that it appeared the loss occurred inadvertently when the operating systems for those computers were changed recently.
-- Times Staff Writer Alicia Caldwell and researchers Deirdre Morrow and Stephanie Scruggs contributed to this report.