Kingmaker Announces Candidacy

The woman who earned national recognition for her personal stylings as well as for presiding over the historic presidential election recount last fall may be on the verge of a new political career.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris announced Tuesday that she's running for Congress.  Harris said Tuesday in her hometown of Sarasota that she's "more committed than ever" to serving the nation in light of the Sept. 11 attacks.

She said her campaign will focus on the issues of Social Security, personal security, the environment and education. 

"No one will out-work me," she said.

Harris will run to replace retiring 13th district Republican Rep. Dan Miller, a five-term congressman representing a heavily Republican district.   

Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Tramm Hudson said Harris should win the heavily Republican district easily, even though she will be a political target because of her role in the election recount.

"She may be used as a poster child to raise money for other Democratic congressional candidates.  But in the 13th Congressional district, the Democrats would be hard pressed to find a legitimate opponent," he said. 

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe said there is no surprise in Harris entering the race. He said the Democrats will have at least one opponent for her, although no one has yet announced.

"(Harris) will help us in our turnout. She is a lightening rod and we will be able to raise money. I wish there were some more Katherine Harris' around," Poe said.

Harris's only announced opponent so far would be Chester Flake, a 27-year-old computer consultant making his first try for political office. 

Flake, A Republican, said he intends to ask Harris to step down as secretary of state since that job oversees Florida elections.

Harris survived a barrage of personal and political attacks by Democrats during her stint as the most influential woman in politics last year when she oversaw the five-week recount that sent George W. Bush to the White House. Following the recount, she won praise from Republicans for her handling of the situation and quieted critics by helping push through an election reform package.  

She was back in the hot seat earlier this year after her office was criticized for spending too much state money for business- or first-class foreign travel, a violation of state regulations.  

A former Democrat who became a Republican in 1986, Harris cannot seek re-election as secretary of state because voters decided to make it an appointive office when her current term ends in January 2003.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.