Book suggests Gore's tactics were his undoing
Monday, August 26, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A new book written by former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris suggests Al Gore's aggressive legal tactics might have spoiled his chance for a statewide recount in the contested 2000 presidential election.
In "Center of the Storm," scheduled to be published in October, Harris writes that Gore unleashed "the dogs of war" in his legal battle over Florida's electoral votes with eventual winner George W. Bush.
The Tallahassee Democrat obtained galley proofs of the book for a Sunday story.
To give four counties time to conduct manual recounts, Gore won a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court forcing Harris to delay certification of the state's election results from Nov. 17 to Nov. 26. The court also ruled state law required the results be finalized by Dec. 12.
Harris contends that pushing back the deadline didn't leave Gore enough time to start the process for a statewide recount by officially contesting the results -- which can only happen after certification.
"In fact, had Al Gore not fought my enforcement of that deadline thereby enabling me to certify the election on Nov. 17, 2000, the deadline for our receipt of overseas military ballots, he could have filed his contest more than one week earlier," Harris wrote.
But Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera said Sunday that the Bush camp also filed "dozens upon dozens of legal motions" that "delayed a fair and accurate count in Florida.
"Harris' job was to do everything possible to make sure that all the people who intended to vote on election day had their votes counted," Cabrera said.
She "instead did everything she could to make sure the votes were not counted."
Due before election
The 289-page book is due out just before the election that Harris hopes will take her to Washington as southwest Florida's newest member of Congress.
"Regardless of what course of action we chose, we knew we had landed in a no-win situation," Harris wrote of returning to her Capitol office at 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2000. "Before I made my first public statement, we all knew that my office would come under fire."
For the next 36 days, Harris was sued in several counties, stung by partisan barbs from Democratic Party activists, denounced in rallies on the Capitol steps, joked about by Jay Leno and David Letterman, hounded by reporters and photographers, lionized by Republicans and lampooned by editorial cartoonists nationwide.
Throughout the book, she repeatedly states that she applied the law impartially, never caring whether her decisions favored Bush or Gore, writing that "at the beginning of the recount period, I had erected a firewall between my office and any partisan activity."
Cabrera said he doubted Harris was impartial.
Claims of bias
"She was rushing to certify an election for an individual for whom she had already campaigned and was biased towards," Cabrera said.
Democrats have maintained that Gore would have won Florida's 25 electoral votes -- and the White House -- in a statewide recount.
Gore supporters think thousands of ballots in some of his strongest counties were wrongly disqualified.
At least 53 lawsuits were filed. Some unofficial ballot inspections paid for by consortiums of news agencies showed Bush winning by varying margins.
Bush's final victory margin, which Harris certified, was 537 votes -- out of more than 6 million cast.