SARASOTA, Fla. – Rep. Katherine Harris (search), the Florida election official vilified by Democrats for her role in the 2000 presidential recount, announced Friday she will not run for the Senate.
The White House had wanted her to stay out of the race, for fear her candidacy would produce big turnout among angry Democrats and hurt President Bush's chances of carrying Florida and its crucial 27 electoral votes this year.
Harris said she has unfinished business in the House and will seek re-election this year. She said that no one tried to prevent her from running for the Senate and that Bush political adviser Karl Rove "was never discouraging."
But Harris made it clear that she plans to run for the Senate someday, perhaps in 2006.
"So after careful deliberation I am here to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate," Harris, 46, said to steady applause from about 75 supporters in her hometown. "But just not this year."
As Florida secretary of state, Harris oversaw the disputed count that gave Bush a crucial 537-vote victory over Al Gore (search) in Florida. Harris said all along that she simply followed the letter of the law, but she became a darling of GOP activists and was elected to Congress in 2002.
Harris has said she has been encouraged to seek the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, and polls showed her as the early front-runner for the Republican nomination.
A poll released last month by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times found that Harris had the support of 29 percent of GOP voters, followed by former Rep. Bill McCollum (search) with 15 percent, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez (search) with 11 percent. Thirty-eight percent were undecided.
Harris' fame since the recount helped her amass nearly $3 million for her 2002 congressional campaign. Through the end of the September fund-raising period, she had nearly $350,000 on hand.
Democrats had expressed hope that Harris would enter the race, arguing it would enhance their own fund-raising and focus more attention on the campaign.
With Harris out of the running, "the race won't be the subject of Jay Leno and David Letterman. But I don't think that's going to change one way or the other what we are going to do," said Jeff Garcia, campaign manager for Democratic Senate candidate Betty Castor.
Castor, a former state education commissioner, is running against Rep. Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas (search) for the Democratic nomination.
Along with McCollum and Martinez, the field of Republicans includes state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, state Sen. Daniel Webster, former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith and Miami lawyer Larry Klayman.