Incoming Harris Chosen for Assistant Whip Post

Incoming congressional member and controversial Florida figure Katherine Harris has been selected as an assistant majority whip in the House of Representatives.

"Being appointed assistant majority whip will give the citizens in southwest Florida a much more active role in Congress," Harris said in a press release Thursday.

House Majority Whip-Elect Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the third-ranking Republican in the new Congress, announced his pick during Harris' freshman orientation in Washington. The move makes the newcomer an unofficial member of the House leadership.

Harris "will be an excellent addition to our whip organization," Blunt said in the same release, "and I am pleased that she has agreed to do this very important job."

Her job will be to help the GOP push through key legislation by rounding up votes. In the past Congress, 40 to 50 members belonged to the Republican whip organization.

Burson Taylor, Blunt's spokeswoman, said Harris will be one of about 10 or 11 first-term representatives to serve as assistant majority whips. This year, there will be about 60 whips under Blunt's purview.

"He chose her because he was impressed with the campaign she ran, with her ability to work with others and her tenacity and her ability to tackle tough problems," Taylor said.

The former Florida secretary of state is best remembered for her role in the 2000 presidential election and resulting recount that put President George W. Bush in the White House. Bush's brother, Jeb, is the governor of Florida.

In that race, Harris certified Florida's election results despite Democratic claims that ballot counters couldn't get their recount done in time because ballots were marred and Democrats mistakenly voted for other candidates as a result of confusing butterfly ballots. The Supreme Court eventually upheld Harris' action.

During that election, Harris was also accused of accepting hundreds of overseas absentee ballots that failed to comply with state laws. When asked by news outlets to provide records of the actions, Harris said her office computers had been erased. She later said she would allow reporters to inspect the hard drives used to draft correspondence in the election stalemate.

The Florida State Democratic Committee also accused Harris of violating state law by allowing political work to be done in her office during the 2000 presidential election.

But when election time came around last month, Harris, who chose to run for retiring GOP Rep. Dan Miller's 13th District seat, which includes Harris' hometown of Sarasota, easily defeated Democrat Jan Schneider.

Harris was elected Florida’s 23rd secretary of state in 1998. Prior to that, she served four years in the Florida Senate where she was chairman of the Senate’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee, and vice chairman of the Insurance and Banking Committee. Before her political career began, Harris was an IBM marketing executive and vice president of a commercial real estate firm.

Blunt also appointed Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor as chief deputy majority whip, the highest appointed position in the House GOP leadership.

"I know he will make an excellent chief deputy whip and add a strong voice to our leadership decision making process," Blunt said in a statement. "I look forward to working with him everyday to move the Republican agenda forward in the House."

Cantor will begin his second term in the House when Congress reconvenes in January. In the last session, he too served as assistant whip while still a freshman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.