Gayle Harrell Says No to Congressional Bid Against Patrick Murphy

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: August 28, 2013 3:55 AM

Gayle Harrell

Credit: myfloridahouse.gov

Gayle Harrell slammed the door on running for Congress Tuesday, announcing she is seeking another term in the Florida House. 

Harrell tried to run for Congress before. First elected to the Florida House in 2000, she ran against Tom Rooney in the Republican primary to challenge Tim Mahoney in 2008. But she came up short and returned to the Legislature in 2010 as a member of the Florida House.

In both of her stints in the House, Harrell has built a reputation as a hard-working and knowledgeable legislator. She remains one of the sharpest Republicans in the chamber, especially on health issues. She certainly has the background for it. She works as a technology consultant on health information and her husband is a retired doctor. Harrell chairs the Healthy Families Subcommittee and serves on both the Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation and the Select Committee on PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

She passed up a chance to do even more on the issue as the federal government continues to delay implementing Obamacare. With a large crowd of Republicans already lined up to challenge freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy, Harrell decided against running again for Congress. Murphy ranks as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the nation, and while there are other Republicans who could enter the race -- including Adam Hasner -- there’s no favorite so far in the GOP primary.

The option was certainly there. Had she run for Congress, Harrell brought some clear advantages to the race. Conservatives ranging from Mike Huckabee to the National Rifle Association backed her against Rooney back in 2008. She is a proven fundraiser, bringing in almost $229,500 when she took on Democrat incumbent Adam Fetterman in 2010. Even in 2012, when she faced only a write-in opponent, she brought in more than $126,000.

But Harrell turned 70 this year and she just lost her mother. More than a few political observers didn’t expect her to run for Congress. But as she gets ready to run again for the Florida House though, she retains her seniority and remains one of the heavyweights in the House on policy -- and not just on health issues. Last Thursday she attended and addressed the meeting in Stuart of the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobbe Basin -- a water pollution nightmare from coast to coast in the area straddling the northern Everglades.

Harrell is a legislative veteran who is knowledgeable and willing to put in the time and the effort to understand issues and legislation. Even as she passes up a second congressional bid, she is poised to remain a major political player in Tallahassee for the immediate future. 

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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