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Harris: No Senate run in 2004

Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Sarasota: No run for U.S. Senate in 2004.
Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Sarasota: No run for U.S. Senate in 2004.

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Katherine Harris
Mel Martinez

SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- Rep. Katherine Harris announced on Friday that she would not run for the U.S. Senate in Florida this year, but left no doubt that she expects to run in the future.

Speculation had been that Harris would run to replace Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, who is retiring.

In announcing she would not run to replace Graham, Harris teased her supporters. "I am here to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate," she said, "but -- just not this year."

Harris stopped short of endorsing the White House favorite for the job, former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, but said, "I will do everything to ensure a Republican is in the United States Senate" from Florida.

Harris, flanked by supporters at a Boys and Girls Club in Sarasota County, said she was flattered by the encouragement she had gotten from her supporters and by polls that indicated that she would be the front-runner in the race.

Harris said one factor in her decision is that she has been a part of the Republican leadership team in the House. She said House Speaker Dennis Hastert had called her during the morning to ask her not to leave.

"I have a job to do and a job to finish," said Harris, saying she believes her fight for another term in Congress would be spirited.

But she also said to those who were disappointed with her decision not to run for the Senate this year, "Rest assured, all in good time."

But she said she could do more to help her district from her position in the House.

"Before I apply for another job, I intend to complete the one I was hired for," Harris said.

Harris delighted her supporters at the start of the news conference by announcing that she would run for the Senate, but then quickly added that she would not do it this year.

Harris, who is 46 and married with a 20-year-old daughter, gained national attention as Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election recount controversy.

She was elected to Congress in 2002. (From 2002: Harris wins plum office on Capitol Hill)

Harris met several times in recent months with top Republican Party and Bush political advisers -- including more than one White House meeting with Karl Rove -- to discuss a potential Senate candidacy.

While it is official national party policy to avoid taking a stand in primaries, several sources familiar with the conversations tell CNN the Bush team was worried her candidacy would stoke memories of the bitter 2000 Florida recount effort.

The administration favors Martinez, believing a Martinez candidacy would help attract new voters to the GOP and help energize Hispanic voters, among them the state's Cuban-American population.

But these sources say Harris would have been a formidable candidate in a GOP primary because of her statewide name recognition and national fund-raising base because of her high profile in the 2000 campaign.

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