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Friday, October 29, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Political opinions take a violent turn in Florida; Harris nearly run down

By Seattle Times news services

Rep. Katherine Harris: assault target, police say.
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As if Florida didn't have enough problems as it tries to avoid a repeat of the bitter 2000 presidential election, some residents are accused of taking partisanship too far.

In the most publicized incident, a motorist was arrested Wednesday on charges of trying to run down Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., at a Sarasota intersection.

Harris, Florida's much-castigated secretary of state during the state's bitter presidential ballot-recount battle in 2000, was campaigning with several supporters Tuesday night when a Cadillac sped toward them, drove up onto the sidewalk where Harris stood, and then swerved away, police say. No one was hurt.

Police used the car's license number to track the owner, Barry Seltzer, 46, of Sarasota, who was jailed on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

"I was exercising my political expression," police quoted Seltzer as saying. "I did not run them down, I scared them a little."

On the other side of the political spectrum, an anti-John Kerry demonstrator was charged Tuesday with felony aggravated assault with a gun for allegedly pointing a weapon at the head of a Kerry supporter in Vero Beach.

Michael Garone, 52, and others were holding anti-Kerry signs at a street corner Monday when Trevor Pickering drove up and said "Go Kerry," according to an arrest affidavit.

Pickering argued with the anti-Kerry protesters, then got out of his car and knocked a sign from the hands of one of the demonstrators.

"That's when [Garone] walked up to my car and stuck a gun to my head," Pickering said. "I said 'I'm sorry' and 'Please don't kill me,' drove away and called the cops."

Garone denied pointing the gun at anyone.

Finally, when an 18-year-old couldn't convince his girlfriend that George W. Bush was the right choice for president, he became enraged, put a screwdriver to her throat and threatened to kill her, sheriff's officials said.
"You won't live to see the next election," Steven Soper told Stacey Silveira on Tuesday night as the two fought inside Soper's gray, two-story home west of Boynton Beach, according to a police report.

Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge William Bollinger ordered Wednesday that Soper, who enlisted in the Marine Corps on Saturday, be held without bail pending a mental-health assessment. His next court date is today. He faces charges of aggravated battery, false imprisonment and resisting arrest without violence.

Compiled from Knight Ridder Newspapers, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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