Karen Harrington Says Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is "Within Striking Distance"
She's the Republican nominee to take on heavily favored Democrat incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz for the congressional seat in Florida's 20th district. Now, Harrington says, an internal poll shows she is quickly closing the gap on her competitor, and she says Wasserman Schultz is "scared" to debate her.
We spoke with Harrington earlier this week about her campaign and the difficulties she faces challenging one of the Democratic Party's leaders.
The two candidates have been invited to debates or round-table discussions by several organizations, Harrington says, and each time, Wasserman Schultz has canceled. (Though the Wasserman Schultz campaign did not respond to requests for comment, it's fair to assume she would have very little to gain from a public debate.)
Harrington says the poll recently conducted by her campaign shows "we are definitely within striking distance." She said the poll shows Wasserman Schultz with a 47-percent to 39-percent lead, and 18 percent of the respondents still undecided.
Though she says she disagrees with her opponent on "nearly every issue," Harrington has had to walk a delicate line in such a heavily Democrat area. She says she is not necessarily a Tea Party member, like one of her primary opponents, but she speaks at Tea Party events and attended the April Tax Day protest. She says she "shares a lot of the same philosophies" with the group, such as a strong dedication to smaller government, lower taxes, and strong defense. "There's just not a very large contingent of the Tea Party down here," she says.
Harrington and her family have also owned Rickey's Restaurant and Lounge, in Hollywood, for almost 40 years. She says her 30 years as the business manager has taught her the lessons she'll need in politics. The single biggest issue she has with how things are currently run: "The debt."
"The most important thing government is lacking is people with real-life business experience," she says. "We're lacking a business sense in Washington. Until they have that experience, I don't think they can get it. People want accountability. They want someone to go to Washington with the will of the people."
Harrington's website is loaded with videos of Wasserman Schultz appearing on various cable news shows, often discussing President Obama's health-care legislation. "Our elected officials do not share the beliefs we do," Harrington says. "They're more loyal to people in their party than to the people in their districts. It's just not the way government was intended."