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Harris won't withdraw from Senate race

US Rep Katherine Harris waits for the arrival of Italy PM Berlusconi in Washington
Rep. Katherine Harris on Capitol Hill earlier this month.Larry Downing / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rep. Katherine Harris will fight rather than quit her U.S. Senate campaign, saying she’ll spend $10 million she inherited from her father to revive her bid, which has been set back by her ties to a bribery scandal.

Still, some analysts wonder whether the money will be enough to change strong opinions many voters have about Harris, largely based on her role in the 2000 presidential recount, when her decisions as Florida’s secretary of state helped elect President Bush.

“I’m staying. I’m in this race. I’m going to win,” Harris said Wednesday night on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes.” “I’m going to put everything on the line.”

The congresswoman has been under mounting pressure from some Republicans to get out of the race because of concerns that she cannot win and that her role during the recount could motivate Democrats and independents to go to the polls.

Negative image
The decision to put her own fortune on the line at least temporarily puts her on even financial ground with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who began the year with $8 million in his campaign account compared to Harris’ $1 million.

Harris’ announcement is probably better news for Democrats than Republicans, Darryl Paulson, a University of South Florida political science professor, said Thursday.

“Her image is so chiseled in stone in such a negative way that even though she’s pumping in $10 million of her own money, much of that is going to have to be used to create a positive image of her and $10 million isn’t going to be enough,” said Paulson, a Republican.

Harris had failed to meet fundraising goals, largely because GOP leaders in Washington didn’t openly embrace her campaign after she entered the race last summer.

Her campaign became more difficult after a defense contractor involved in the bribery scandal said he gave $32,000 in illegal contributions to her 2004 campaign for the House.

Mitchell Wade, the former president of MZM Inc., also pleaded guilty to bribing former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who was sent to prison earlier this month for bribery.

Harris said she did not knowingly do anything illegal and said she would donate the money to charity.

Campaign dedicated to father
Her father, banker George Harris, died in January. After the funeral she dedicated her campaign to him.

“When I lost him, I said I would win this for my father,” she said.

Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Nelson, said Harris’ decision was “just a desperate attempt to deflect attention from a career of blunders and failures.”

State Republican Party Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan said she supports Harris’ decision.

“It’s an investment in our state, it’s an investment in our values, it’s an investment in what she believes and what her dad believed and what her granddad believed in,” Jordan said.