SARASOTA, Fla. – A man driving a silver Cadillac drove up on a sidewalk and nearly hit U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris as an exercise in “political expression,” authorities said Wednesday.

Harris, R-Fla., was campaigning for re-election with several volunteers Tuesday evening when a car ripped through an intersection, hopped the curb and headed for Harris, a Sarasota Police Department report stated.

The car veered away from Harris at the last second, but not before witnesses got the car’s license plate number. Police later arrested Barry M. Seltzer, a 46-year-old self-employed real estate investor, on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was being held in the Sarasota County Jail on Wednesday without bond.

No one answered the telephone or door at Seltzer’s Sarasota home. The Cadillac was still in the driveway, next to a Kerry-Edwards sign that appeared to have been vandalized.

Seltzer is a registered Democrat, according to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office, but Democrats campaigning for Harris’ opponent, Jan Schneider, were appalled by the incident. Schneider’s campaign manager said they did not know Seltzer.

The incident clearly frightened Harris, who told police that she was frozen in place from fear as the car approached. Witnesses said that the car got so close to the group that they could see the expression on the driver’s face.

Harris and others described the Cadillac’s license plate, how the driver looked, his posture, and the belief that his reckless driving was intentional.

Police tracked the Cadillac to Seltzer’s home and took photographs of the car, but they decided to wait to interview him until Wednesday. Seltzer, aware that police were looking for him, went to the department at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday to talk to investigators.

According to the arrest report, Seltzer first claimed that Harris and the volunteers were standing in the street, impeding traffic. Then, he said, he “intimidated them” with his car.

“I was exercising my political expression!” Seltzer told police, according to the arrest report. “I did not run them down, I scared them a little!”

Jay Frank, spokesman for the police department, said Seltzer confessed after being read his rights.

Seltzer is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday. Police, court and jail officials had no information on whether Seltzer had hired an attorney. The Sarasota County Public Defender’s Office said none of their attorneys had been assigned to Seltzer’s case.

Harris appears to have recovered from her encounter and resumed her re-election campaign Wednesday. She was scheduled to spend time with U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and was unavailable for comment.

Jessica Furst, Harris’ press secretary, said that “this is an unfortunate incident and a minor issue.”

“All of our energy is very much directed toward victory Tuesday,” Furst said.

Furst said Harris was more concerned for her volunteers’ health than her own after the incident.


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