Allan Bense says no to Republicans who want him to run for U.S. Senate by Mitch E. Perry

05/10/06

The hopes and dreams of Florida Republicans that House Speaker Allan Bense would save the day by getting into the Senate race and knocking off Katherine Harris, will not come to be, as Bense announced this morning he will not enter the Republican Primary race against the Sarasota area Congresswoman.

With the deadline to enter the race just 48 hours away, hopes of the GOP capturing the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson are dwindling. On Monday, Governor Jeb Bush said he did not believe Harris could beat Nelson, whom she trails in some polls by nearly 30 percentage points. Aubrey Jewett is a political science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He says the news is bad for the State GOP (roll tape#1 o.q.�going to be disappointed�)

Allan Bense had become the Republican lawmaker that other Florida Republicans who have become disaffected by Congresswoman Harris’ troubles had attached themselves to. But that’s only after other candidates who they think would do well against Senator Nelson – like former Cent.Com Leader Tommy Franks, and the fantasy candidate, Governor Jeb Bush, said they had no interest in the race. Mark Proctor is with the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee. He admits that the high profile comments by Governor Bush and other high ranking Republicans Against Harris candidacy has been nearly unprecedented (roll tape#2 o.q.�that decision�)

Allen Bense’s decision comes despite intense pressure from the highest ranking Republicans to get into the Senate race. The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that President Bush would made a personal plea to Bense to challenge Harris. An unnamed source in the story says Governor Jeb Bush had promised to make fundraising calls for the Panhandle based Representative, and that President Bush would come back to Florida to raise money for Bense against Harris.

April Schiff is a Republican Party Consultant based in Tampa. She says the undercutting of Harris is unusual and unwarranted (roll tape#3 o.q.�moving forward�)

That same New York Daily News report had an anonymous but ‘knowledgeable Republican source as saying of the President’s thoughts about Harris, “ "He wants to get her to seriously consider dropping out," adding that Bush may ask her "if there's anything else she might want" in the way of an appointment.

Harris role as Florida’s Secretary of State in 2000, when her rulings helped George W. Bush and hurt Al Gore during the Florida Recount , made her a household name, and a heroine to Republicans nationally. But conversely, she is loathed by many Democrats and independents, and she has always trailed in polls against Senator Nelson. Initially, those polls were relatively close…..But as the months have gone by, so have her poll numbers.

Hurting Harris in recent months has been her association with a disgraced Defense Contractor, Mitchell Wade. He pleaded guilty to giving illegal campaign contributions to her campaign. And just 2 weeks ago, it was revealed that Wade and Harris shared a dinner in Washington that cost $2800, prompting the group Common Cause to file an ethics complaint against her with the Justice Department She’s has also gone through a series of campaign and congressional staff makeovers, and The Wall Street Journal reported today that 2 months ago, her staff scheduled a press conference to announce her withdrawal from the race, but the Sarasota area Congresswoman then changed her mind. Despite all of that, UCF Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett says that there was absolutely no guarantee that Allen Bense would beat Katherine Harris in the GOP primary this September (roll tape#4 o.q.�and it would have been tough�)

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported today that legislative leaders have had a very poor record when it comes to running for office after they step down as House Speaker or Senate President. The most recent example of that is when the previous House Speaker, Plant City’s Johnny Byrd – ran for the Republican nomination for Senate. He received less than 6 percent of the vote.

But the Florida Republican Party is considered one of the strongest in the country. GOP consultant April Schiff is working for gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher. And she maintains that she has no worries that if her candidate is running in November, that Harris ‘ presence will keep Republican voters away from the polls (roll tape#5 o.q.�she’ll turn it around�) Schiff says it’s time for Harris to focus on the issues and work her grass roots hard.

The question that cannot be answered is – if no other candidate comes forward by Friday’s deadline, how many other Republican voters may stay away from the polls in November because they’re not excited about Katherine Harris. Local businessman and Republican Mark Proctor speaks for the hardcore that are still supporting President Bush right now (roll tape#6 o.q.�and my vote�)

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