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Five staffers leave Harris campaign

Despite departures and pending surgery, Katherine Harris shows no signs of ending her Senate run.

By JEREMY WALLACE

H-T POLITICAL WRITER

jeremy.wallace@heraldtribune.com
Five top-level campaign workers left Katherine Harris' campaign for Senate on Thursday, the second time a group of staffers has walked away from her sputtering campaign.

But Harris, already beset by bad poll numbers and poor fundraising, isn't showing any signs of quitting. By Thursday evening, she announced she had already hired three new employees.

So, as she prepares for a doctor's appointment on Monday that will determine whether she has ovarian cancer, Harris is assembling a new campaign staff, for the third time.

With less than two months until the Sept. 5 Republican primary, political watchers say she'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel for new workers.

"All the good people have long been taken," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Harris sent out a press release Thursday naming her new hires, but could not be reached for comment.

Former campaign advisers say Harris should try to make a graceful exit from the campaign, but they know she probably won't.

"She has had every opportunity to leave the race," said Jim Dornan, a former campaign manager who left Harris' campaign at the end of March. "She's not going to leave now."

Another campaign consultant who left Harris, Ed Rollins -- a former political director for President Ronald Reagan -- was not surprised by the latest staff defection.

"Katherine is probably the worst micromanager I have ever seen, and her instincts are 100 percent wrong," said Rollins, who was Harris' senior campaign adviser. "After a while you say, 'Why am I putting up with this crap?'"

Early in the campaign, it looked like Harris had assembled a "dream team" campaign staff. Besides Rollins, it included pollster Ed Goeas, whose clients include 10 current U.S. senators, and media consultant Adam Goodman, who has worked for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

The workers who quit this week all had far less prominent r�sum�s.

The campaign defections on Thursday included campaign manager Glenn Hodas and field director Pat Thomas. Both had been with the campaign for about four months.

Three other staffers -- John Byers, Brian Brooks and Stephen Gately -- also handed in resignations on Thursday. A day earlier, Harris lost campaign communications director Chris Ingram.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Glenn Hodas, Pat Thomas and the other departing staff members," Harris said in a statement released to the media late Thursday.

The turnover hasn't been limited to just her campaign team. Her congressional office has been through four chiefs of staff, five press secretaries and four district directors in the past three years.

Sabato said a lot of members of Congress go through staff, but not like Harris. He said her turnover is some of the worst he's ever seen.

What's also unusual is how vocal her former employees have been. Usually, when staffers leave a campaign, both sides try to minimize the impact. But Rollins and Dornan have been more than willing to detail Harris' problems.

Harris angered Rollins in March when she said her campaign staff was stabbing her in the back. Rollins said at the time that he was insulted by her comments and said the staffers who hung with the campaign until March were very loyal.

Troubles in the Harris camp don't end with turnover. She has also failed to win support from Republican leaders like Gov. Jeb Bush and has struggled to distance herself from a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal contributions in 2004.

Three Republicans are running against her for the GOP nomination on Sept. 5. Her opponents are Orlando-area attorney Will McBride, Safety Harbor developer Peter Monroe and Navy veteran LeRoy Collins Jr.

On Monday, Harris will undergo surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to determine if an ovarian mass doctors discovered is cancerous.
_____

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Last modified: July 14. 2006 4:44AM

Five top-level campaign workers left Katherine Harris' campaign for Senate on Thursday, the second time a group of staffers has walked away from her sputtering campaign.

But Harris, already bes . . .

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