May 31, 2005


Waiting for Harris has GOP antsy: Republicans are hoping that U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris will run against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in next year's Senate elections. (LESLEY CLARK, 5/31/05, Miami Herald)

Republicans say U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be one of their leading targets for elimination when he's up for reelection next year.

Yet, 18 months from the election, not a single Republican has stepped forward to challenge the freshman Democrat. The leading reason? U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.

The Republican star of the 2000 presidential election recount is looking at taking on Nelson, and her interest has other Republican hopefuls on ice, given the conventional wisdom that Harris would be the runaway primary favorite should she decide to run. [...]

Some Republicans are beginning to become antsy, suggesting that time is getting short for someone to start raising the millions it will require to challenge Nelson -- particularly if Harris decides against running. But as Republicans look around the state, they're at a bit of a loss to see a ready alternative. [...]

Two of the state's most prominent Republicans, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, are running against each other to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush. Some party leaders hope one of them could be convinced to change races, but both have said they're not interested.

Barring a switch, Republicans have even suggested Bush, who can't run for reelection as governor in 2006 because of term limits, and retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, a part-time Tampa resident. Both have rejected such entreaties.

Then there are Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, neither of whom have run statewide before but could have easy access to campaign cash. A spokesman for Bense didn't rule him out. Foley, who was a leading candidate for an open Senate seat in 2004 before bowing out to tend to an ailing father, suggested he's interested -- if the party wants him.

''I'm not interested yet in jumping into the middle of it, but if someone wants to recruit Mark Foley, I'd be willing to talk,'' said Foley, noting that he still has about $2 million in his campaign account -- just $1 million less than Nelson.

While Ms Harris would be their best candidate--assuming Jeb has his sight set higher--they'll have no trouble raising money for whoever runs. It's pretty much Jeb's first presidential primary to win the seat for the Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2005 10:36 AM

This is definitely a pick up opportunity for the GOP that could be lost if they don't get their act together. Rove needs to force a decision out of Harris and clear the field appropriately.

Posted by: AWW at May 31, 2005 10:44 AM

I would be more surprised to see Jeb run for Senate in 2006 than I would to see him run for President in 2008. A lot more. One thing I hwve heard from everyone I know who knows anything about Florida politics is that Jeb really and truly does want and need a substantial block of time off after he leaves office.

Posted by: Dan at May 31, 2005 3:07 PM
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