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Katherine Harris Resigns In Confusion

Nearly two years after she played a major role in Florida's confused presidential election, Katherine Harris resigned as secretary of state, saying she misunderstood the election law regarding her candidacy for Congress.

Under Florida law, Harris should have filed her letter of intent to resign by July 15 in order to continue as secretary of state while she ran for another office. Because she missed the filing, she had to resign immediately.

After she handed in her resignation Thursday, Gov. Jeb Bush said he'd keep her as acting secretary until he appoints a successor. No date was given.

"I made a mistake in not filing the letter," Harris said at a hastily called news conference after which she was whisked away by aides as reporters shouted questions.

Harris said she hadn't realized the resign-to-run law covered her, thinking it applied only to officeholders whose successors would be elected. Her position is being eliminated as an elected Cabinet post in January, and will become an appointed agency head.

The law's intent is to give potential candidates sufficient notice that the incumbent is seeking another office.

"I just had it in my mind that because it was appointed I didn't need to. I just made that assumption," Harris said in a later interview. "I should have read the law. I didn't. I take full responsibility."

Harris said the Division of Elections, which she oversees, had no role in the mix-up.

Harris, a Republican, said she had already planned to resign Aug. 13. She said she needs to spend time on her campaign in the Sarasota area.

"I have to go home and run," she said. "If I go home I'm not engaged in my statewide duties."

She said she had warned Bush about her sudden resignation.

"He wished me well in my race," Harris said, adding she hopes the governor appoints a successor quickly.

"The sooner the better," she said. "I really have to go home. This is the next chapter in my life."

Harris hopes to succeed GOP Rep. Dan Miller, who is retiring from the heavily Republican district after four terms. She faces former television anchor John C. Hill in the Sept. 10 primary. Four newcomers are vying for the Democratic nomination.

By David Royse

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