SARASOTA, Fla. – A motorist who told police he was exercising his "political expression" was jailed Wednesday on an aggravated assault charge alleging he tried to run down U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (search) and a group of re-election campaign supporters. No one was injured.
Witnesses told police a silver Cadillac sped through an intersection and hurtled onto a sidewalk, heading straight toward Harris before swerving at the last minute and driving off.
The Republican congresswoman told police she froze with fear as the vehicle sped toward her Tuesday evening, authorities said.
Witnesses gave the car's license plate number to police, and they tracked it to Barry M. Seltzer (search), 46, of Sarasota, a registered Democrat. He came to the police station Wednesday and complained to officers that Harris' supporters had been standing in the street impeding traffic.
"I intimidated them with my car," Seltzer told police. "I was exercising my political expression. I did not run them down. I scared them a little."
Campaign press secretary Jessica Furst, who was at the intersection about a mile from Seltzer's home, said 10 or 15 supporters were carrying several campaign signs.
Furst said she didn't see the oncoming car. Afterward, Harris "expressed to me that she thought it was truly an unfortunate incident," Furst said. She called it a "minor issue" and said Harris was focusing on her campaign for a second term.
Seltzer, who listed his occupation as real estate investor, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and booked into the Sarasota County jail.
The first-degree felony carries a possible 30-year prison sentence. He was being held without bond and was scheduled for his first court appearance Thursday.
A call to Seltzer's home Wednesday was unanswered.
Harris is seeking re-election after serving as Florida's secretary of state during the protracted 2000 presidential recount (search).
She has been a rising star in the GOP and the bane of Democrats since overseeing the recount that gave Florida and the presidency to George W. Bush by 537 votes.
She used momentum from the recount to win the congressional seat in 2002 and is seeking re-election against Sarasota lawyer Jan Schneider, who lost to Harris two years ago.