Katherine Harris (born April 5 1957), American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 2003, representing the 13th District of Florida (map). She was born in Key West, Florida to a wealthy and politically influential family, was educated at the University of Madrid in Spain, Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia and at Harvard University, and was a real estate broker, a member of the Florida State Senate from 1995-1998 and Florida Secretary of State (1999-2002) before entering the House. Her election to the Florida legislature was one of the most expensive Florida state races in history.
While she was Secretary of State, Harris presided over the contested Presidential election of 2000 in Florida. It was Harris who certified that the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, had carried the State of Florida, thus giving him the election over Al Gore. Her ruling was challenged, and was overturned on appeal by the Florida Supreme Court, but was upheld upon further appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. There were allegations of a conflict of interest since she was prominent in the Florida Bush campaign.
Harris has been accused of acting in a partisan manner in conducting the Florida election count. No charges have ever been filed. In addition to her opposition to recounts in predominantly democractic counties, those who accuse Harris of acting in a partisan manner allege that:
- Before the election, a firm hired by Harris in her capacity as Secretary of State to purge convicted felons from the voter rolls erroneously removed 8,000 registered voters who had been convicted only of misdemeanors, thousands of others who had the same names as felons, and a few whose computer records said they had committed crimes in the future.
- Harris unlawfully certified the election results from 20 of Florida's 67 counties without requiring – as mandated under Florida law for elections decided by one half of one percent or less – that they conduct automatic machine recounts.
- Harris unlawfully accepted and certified the results of hand recounts in six Florida counties that produced an additional 400 votes for George W. Bush while rejecting the results of hand recounts in other counties.
Her book, Center of the Storm, gives her version of events.
The 2000 election controversy was not the first time Ms. Harris faced charges of misconduct. As Secretary of State, she was criticized for lavish spending on overseas travel. Ms. Harris was accused of supporting preferential legislation for Riscorp, an insurance company whose wealthy CEO, Bill Griffin, lived in Harris' Senate district. Ms. Harris was also involved in introducing Mr. Griffin to the members of the Florida state legislature and received over $20,000 in donations from key Riscorp employees who had been given bonuses specifically to enable their donations. Mr. Griffin pleaded guilty to felony counts involving illegal campaign donations and conspiracy and served prison time. The Riscorp scandal involved dozens of Florida state legislators and was among the largest scandals in recent Florida history, with Harris as the largest recipient of illegal donations, which she was eventually was forced to return. However, Harris was never charged with any crime and never admitted to any willful wrongdoing.
In 2002, Harris ran for the congressional district vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Dan Miller. Harris outspent her Democratic opponent by a 10-to-1 margin but won by only 10 points, essentially a party-line vote in this Republican-leaning district. Harris defeated the same opponent in 2004 with the same margin. Harris flirted with running for Bob Graham's open Senate seat, and likely would have been the frontrunner in the primary; however, Republican officials were reportedly distressed with the possibility that her presence on the ballot would energize Democratic voters and make it hard for George W. Bush to carry Florida again. In the end, Harris was persuaded to sit the race out, but she is public about her wish to seek a Senate seat in the future; some believe she will run against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2006.
In a 2004 speech in Venice, Florida, she claimed that a "Middle Eastern" man was arrested for attempting to blow up the power grid in Carmel, Indiana; in fact, there is no record that such an arrest was made. Ms. Harris has been a strong supporter of amnesty for illegal aliens and expansion of H-1b, L-1 and other Guest Worker visas.
Harris was immortalized by comedienne Ana Gasteyer during the 2000–2001 season of Saturday Night Live. Harris was depicted as man-hungry, nakedly ambitious, and as wearing wardrobe and makeup that would put most drag queens to shame.  By the time of her Congressional campaign, Harris' look was softer and more subdued, leading some to believe she had plastic surgery. Harris has never spoken publicly about whether she had plastic surgery.
- House website
- House district map
- Katherine Harris weighs Senate run
- The Case Against Florida's Electors (website detailing misconduct charges against Harris)
- Katherine Harris shakes caricature (Fox News article defending Harris's record, by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos)
- Election expense