updated 10/27/2004 5:00:30 PM ET 2004-10-27T21:00:30

SARASOTA, Fla. — A man who told police he was “exercising my political expression” was arrested Wednesday on charges he nearly ran down Rep. Katherine Harris and a group of her supporters with his car.

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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, who tracked it to Barry M. Seltzer, 46, a registered Democrat. He went to a police station early Wednesday and complained that Harris’ supporters had impeded traffic.

“I intimidated them with my car,” he was quoted as telling police. “I was exercising my political expression.”

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — which in Florida can cover attempted as well as actual assault — and held without bail. The charge carries up to 30 years in prison.

There was no immediate comment from Harris, who is seeking a second term.

As Florida secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election, Harris was vilified by Democrats for overseeing the recount that gave the presidency to George W. Bush by 537 votes. She went on to win election to Congress in 2002 and is running against Sarasota lawyer Jan Schneider, who lost to Harris two years ago.

Harris press secretary Jessica Furst was at the intersection, about a mile from Seltzer’s home, and said 10 or 15 supporters were carrying campaign signs. She said she did not see the oncoming car.

Furst said that Harris told her “she thought it was truly an unfortunate incident.” She called it a minor issue and said Harris was focusing on her campaign.

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