Friday, September 01, 2006

Katherine Harris Holds Lead in Poll Heading Into Final Week Before Fla. Republican Primary

ABC News
Poll: Harris Leads Fla. GOP Senate Race
Katherine Harris Holds Lead in Poll Heading Into Final Week Before Fla. Republican Primary
The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Congresswoman Katherine Harris holds a double-digit lead in the race for Florida's Republican U.S. Senate nomination less than a week before the primary, according to a poll released Thursday.

However, the poll also indicates that a large number of Republicans haven't settled on a candidate, and about a third of those supporting Harris said they still might change their minds.

"If Rep. Harris had only one opponent she might be in deep trouble," said Peter Brown, assistant polling director for the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which conducted the poll last week. "But having three candidates splitting the anti-Harris vote is a major plus for her."

Harris was favored by 38 percent of 317 likely Republican voters.

William McBride, a 34-year-old attorney, was supported by 22 percent; retired Navy admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. of Tampa was backed by 11 percent; and Peter Monroe, a real estate developer from Safety Harbor, received 3 percent.

The winner of the Sept. 5 primary faces incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the November general election.

Harris, the former Florida secretary of state, gained notoriety for her role in certifying Florida's votes in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

"We believe that Katherine Harris is the only Republican candidate with a proven record of success and accomplishment to beat Bill Nelson," campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Marks said Thursday.

Some Republicans, including Gov. Jeb Bush, don't believe she can beat Nelson, though and have asked her to withdraw.

Recent polls have shown Nelson more than 30 points ahead of Harris in a general election matchup, and her campaign has been rocky. Fundraising has lagged, campaign workers have defected and she has been dogged by news of dealings with a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

The telephone poll, conducted between Aug. 23-28, had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

About 25 percent of the likely Republican voters questioned said they were still undecided and 45 percent said they might change their minds by election day including a third of those who said they presently favored Harris.

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