She is one of the LAST people I want to see in Congress. Talk about someone who is completely incompetent and is just in the right place at the right time . . .
Again, Election Confusion for the Florida Secretary of State
By DANA CANEDY
IAMI, Aug. 1 — Here they go again. Florida elections officials and political candidates are confused about another election.
And once again, the controversy involves Katherine Harris, who is leaving her post as Florida secretary of state to run for Congress. She did not follow state elections procedures regarding her candidacy and, after realizing the oversight, was forced today to do a bit of damage control.
Florida's "resign to run" law requires that elected officials seeking another office submit a letter on the day of qualifying for the upcoming race stating when they intend to resign. If they do not, their resignation becomes effective immediately. Ms. Harris, whose office enforces state elections law, said she did not realize that the law applied to her because secretary of state becomes an appointed position next year.
So today, Ms. Harris, the official who made so much of "following the letter of the law" during Florida's botched 2000 presidential election, resigned as secretary of state in a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush dated Aug. 1, but she said her resignation was effective July 15, the day she qualified for the Congressional race.
The letter seemed to contradict that point, however, stating, "To this date, I have vigorously engaged in my duties as secretary of state, particularly with respect to our preparations for the upcoming elections, despite the increasing demands of my Congressional campaign."
The coincidence of Ms. Harris's campaign foul-up has not been lost on the Florida Democratic Party leaders who came to Al Gore's aid in the presidential race.
"She doesn't know election law," said Bob Poe, head of the Florida Democratic Party. "She couldn't even resign properly."
Now, the state Democratic Party wants to know exactly what Ms. Harris has been up to for the last two weeks to determine if she had in fact been working simultaneously on behalf of the state and herself. Late this afternoon, the Democrats filed a public information request seeking access to Ms. Harris's travel records, any documents she has signed since July 15 and records of all payments made to her by the state for travel and expense reimbursement during that time.
The party said it had not decided what actions to pursue if Ms. Harris is found to have been working for the state the last two weeks.
"We're going to take a look at what duties she performed between July 16 and Aug. 1," Mr. Poe said. "We're going to take a look at what she did when we thought she was secretary but wasn't."
At a hastily called news conference this afternoon in the Capitol cabinet room in Tallahassee — the same place where she certified the election results in favor of George W. Bush — Ms. Harris told reporters, "I made a mistake in not filing a letter of resignation at the time I qualified for my Congressional race."
Ms. Harris is running in the 13th District, a Republican stronghold around her hometown, Sarasota. The seat is held by Representative Dan Miller, a Republican who is not seeking another term.
Political experts say Ms. Harris is almost certain to win the race in a district where Mr. Miller ran unchallenged in his last two elections, but she nonetheless faces competition from a former local television newscaster and a lawyer who is a former law school classmate of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Harris camp said Ms. Harris had complied with the requirements for qualifying for the race and was proceeding undeterred with her campaign.
"Katherine will win this race with her continuous strong grass-roots efforts, comprised of walking door-to-door and attending Coffees with Katherine," Rori Patrise Smith, her campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Ms. Harris's resignation comes just a month before Florida will hold a statewide primary to determine whether Janet Reno, the former United States attorney general, or Bill McBride, a Tampa lawyer, will face Governor Bush in the November election for governor. It also puts Mr. Bush in the position of having to appoint a new secretary who will be responsible for overseeing the election.
"Once again, it looks like we'll be the object of many political cartoons across the country," said one Florida politics expert, Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. "The Florida cartoons are just going to keep on rolling."