Rep. Harris Tries to Gain Ground on Sen. Nelson in Florida U.S. Senate Debate

Republican Rep. Katherine Harris and Sen. Bill Nelson agreed in a debate Monday night that a timeline shouldn't be placed on removing troops from Iraq, but they disagreed about how to move forward.

Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who gained the adoration of the Republican rank-and-file after overseeing the recount that put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000, is trying to unseat Nelson, a Democrat who has been in Florida politics for more than three decades and is seeking a second Senate term.

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Harris won her congressional seat in 2002 and was re-elected in 2004.

The two debated topics from energy policy to Iraq.

"What's the best chance we have to stabilize Iraq? It's that political solution, but you can't do it alone cowboy style," said Nelson, who suggested breaking the country into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni nations.

Harris, on the other hand, twice used a Republican catchphrase that the United States can't "cut and run."

On energy policy, Harris said the nation should drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while Nelson supported alternative fuel sources.

Harris said the national refuge could provide the country with oil for 29 years.

"Alternative energy sources are not the only answer to our energy needs," Harris said.

Nelson said: "You can't drill your way out of the problem, so you have to go to the alternative sources."

She badly needed to score points in the debate. She trails Nelson in most polls and doesn't have nearly as much money to launch her message through television ads. As of Sept. 30, she had less than $1 million in her campaign coffers, compared with $6.8 million for Nelson.

She also must overcome a rocky campaign season. She has struggled to get support from state GOP leaders who tried to recruit someone else to run. Campaign workers have defected in droves, and she has had to answer questions about her dealings with a corrupt defense contractor.

During the debate, Harris defended herself against the $32,000 in illegal donations she received from Mitchell Wade, saying she didn't know the money was tainted. She has said she gave it to charity. She criticized Nelson for $62,800 in illegal contributions he received as insurance commissioner in the 1990s.

"He's never chosen to voluntarily return it," she said.

Nelson shot back: "Not only did I return all of that, I put the company out of business. I shut them down."

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