LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Bitter memories of the 2000 presidential election in Florida are gradually fading, but they could be revived by leading players in the recount who are running in three state congressional races.
The presence of recount veterans like Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Palm Beach vote monitor Carol Roberts is likely to cause ripples in media coverage, fund raising and voter turnout.
"The recount is alive and well," said Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida. "It has legs in places with large Democratic constituencies."
Candidates and political observers don't expect the recount to be central to the political debate, but emotions run deep about the fight that settled the Florida presidential election, with George W. Bush winning by 537 votes.
When 2000 nominee Al Gore visited the state Democratic convention last week, party activists erupted with cheers and chanting.
Some say the excitement about the disputed election diminished after Sept. 11, but party activists remain motivated.
"As a whole it's receded," said GOP consultant Randy Enwright. "But it's never going to go away."
Florida's congressional map, drawn by the GOP legislature, faces a legal challenge. As drawn, though, it offers the following matchups:
* Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney, a Republican who pushed to name electors before the recount legal battle was over, is running in a new district in central Florida. His Democratic opponent is Harry Jacobs, a lawyer who filed a suit about absentee ballot procedures.
"The recount tends to motivate the base on both sides," said Feeney.
Jacobs, a 54-year-old lawyer from Altamonte Springs, says he likes his chances because he is "a conservative Democrat" who is in the political center compared to his very conservative Republican opponent.
* Republican Secretary of State Harris, running in a southwest Florida district that is heavily GOP, is the closest to a celebrity in the race. Democrats have not selected their nominee.
Harris is greeted by Republican groups as "the equivalent of a national rock star" because of her handling of the election, said Feeney. Democrats hope to use her name to motivate vote turnout across the state.
Harris said, "The encouragement and support I have received from Republicans, and some Democrats, has been overwhelming and humbling." She said the recognition has given her a national platform.
* The most competitive of the three districts could be the south Florida district currently held by Republican Rep. Clay Shaw. His opponent is Democrat Carol Roberts, a member of the Palm Beach County Commission and an outspoken member of the Palm Beach County canvassing board during the recount.
Roberts has become a local celebrity, getting a standing ovation when she appeared before one Democratic group in south Florida, and is frequently recognized on the street. Her district is in eastern Broward and Palm Beach counties, in the heart of the recount zone, but she doesn't plan to focus on the disputed election.
"The top issues in the race will include prescription drug benefits, and people want to know Social Security will be secure for the next 75 years," Roberts said.
Both sides acknowledge the south Florida race could be competitive.
Shaw says he "keeps an open mind" so he can be as responsive as possible to his constituents. The recount won't be a big issue, he says, because "I don't think the people of South Florida like looking backwards to the uncertainty of 2000."
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