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Karen Harrington Tries to Take the Fight to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

August 4, 2011 - 6:00pm

With U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz being named as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the South Florida congresswoman is raising her profile on the national level. Karen Harrington, meanwhile -- a restaurant owner who was Wasserman Schulz's Republican opponent in 2010 -- is looking for a local rematch.

Harrington hopes to win the Republican nomination again in 2012, and she is getting more attentionthis time out than she did the first time. Earlier in the summer, the Shark Tank, honored as the blog of the year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), endorsed Harringtons 2012 campaign.

While Harrington may face other Republicans in a primary -- activist Joe Kaufman and businessman Joe Goldner -- there are other signs that conservatives across the state are getting behind her. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, announced Thursday that he will be hosting a fundraiser for Harrington in Ocala on Wednesday. Baxley, a former chairman of the state Christian Coalition, is one of the leading conservatives in the Florida House.

Harrington has also been raising her profile in recent weeks, appearing on television on Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle and Roger Hedgecocks national radio show.

While Wasserman Schultz took more than 77 percent of the vote in 2008 against a candidate with no party affiliation, Harrington was able to chip into the incumbent a bit in 2010, which was a Republican year at the state and national levels. Wasserman Schultz took 60 percent of the vote, Harrington 38 percent. The rest went to two candidates with no party affiliation and a write-in hopeful.

Despite her recent activity, Wasserman Schultz has one overwhelming advantage over Harrington. While the congresswoman has raised more than $1.1 million for the campaign so far, including $763,500 from PACs, Harrington has raised less than $18,000, has more than $231,000 in debt and holds less than $8,200 cash on hand. Despite spending more than $458,000 so far, Wasserman Schultz has kept her war chest intact and still has more than $1.1 million from both past campaigns and the present one.

While she may be short on cash, Harrington has put Wasserman Schultz on notice that she will be in for a fight. Harrington had no hesitation in going for the jugular in 2010 and she shows no signs of toning down her rhetoric in 2012.

Debbie Wasserman Schultzs continual smearing of her political opponents only degrades our nations political discourse, and she can never be part of any real solutions because of her refusal to participate in factually grounded dialogue, said Harrington last week.

Wasserman Schultz has also refused to engage in another dialogue -- namely, returning fire with Harrington. The challenge for Harrington will be to leverage her increased profile and support to force Wasserman Schultzs focus back on the local level.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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