Rep. Katherine Harris (search), a central figure in the 2000 Florida presidential recount, will announce Friday whether she will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Harris, who as Florida secretary of state oversaw the disputed count that gave George W. Bush a crucial 537-vote victory over Al Gore, will hold a news conference in her hometown of Sarasota. Polls show her as the immediate front-runner in the GOP primary if she enters this year's race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham (search).

"I am grateful for all the encouragement, energized about tomorrow and at peace with my decision," Harris said.

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Harris, who was elected to Congress in 2002, has considered entering the Senate race for months. President Bush's political advisers have feared her candidacy would energize angry Democrats and hurt the president's chances of carrying the important state, where his brother Jeb is governor.

Democrats have expressed hope that Harris would enter the race, arguing it would enhance fund-raising and focus more attention on the campaign.

Several Republicans are running, with polls showing support strongest for former Rep. Bill McCollum and former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez (search). The field of Democrats includes former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor of Tampa, Rep. Peter Deutsch of the Fort Lauderdale area and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.