Time for a peak into the married life of thecongresswoman from Longboat Key.
They met on a blind date at Sarasota’s historic opera house on Pineapple Street, opening night 1996.
The unexpected romance between Katherine Harris and Anders Ebbeson began while they were watching Verdi’s La Forza del Destino.
Mutual friends had fixed them up, though at the time they seemed an unlikely match, with vastly different interests and vastly different styles.
Harris, then a state legislator, had an oversized personality and a mountain of ambitions. Ebbeson, a Swedish entrepreneur a dozen years her senior, was calm and dignified, with no interest in politics. He couldn’t even vote. Yet somehow it worked.
Now, a decade later, Ebbeson stands quietly by his wife – loving and supportive but unmistakably removed – as Harris runs for the U.S. Senate in her toughest race to date.
While Harris faces a grueling uphill battle to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson, her husband rarely appears with her at campaign events or involves himself in campaign decisions.
A millionaire, reportedly worth more than she, Ebbeson leads his own full life, running an international appliance distributing company, traveling the globe and revelling in his own passions from racing cars to cooking gourmet meals.
The couple announced their engagement while cruising the Greek Isles with 15 other couples in September 1996. He was 51 and she was 39.
They married in a civil service in Port Charlotte just before Christmas. A week later, they wed again in a religious ceremony at a Swedish church in Paris on New Year’s Eve, followed by a reception at a park that contains every plant mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays.
Many family members attended, including Harris’ parents, wealthy Bartow banker George Harris and his wife, Harriett. Ebbeson’s teenage daughter from his first marriage, Louise, was the maid of honor.
Back in Sarasota, hundreds of legislators, lobbyists, friends and family members attended a black-tie reception in the courtyard of the regal Ringling Museum of Art. Friends and news accounts tout the event as a page straight out of The Great Gatsby: tulle decorating the columns, flowers flown in from Europe, guests from around the world.
The couple live in the same 6,000-square-foot home that Ebbeson owned with his first wife, in the Bay Isles section of Longboat Key, now worth $2.3-million.
They also own at least three other properties: a $3.9-million waterfront home in Sarasota, which Harris has talked of renovating into her dream home; a $1.1-million townhouse in Washington overlooking the Capitol; and a Sarasota office building valued at $900,000, according to property records.
The couple once owned a home in Sweden, though it’s unclear if they still do.
For both, it was a second marriage.
Harris divorced lawyer Thomas Arnold in 1989 after just four years.
Ebbeson divorced his first wife, Margita, in 1990 after 16 years. The couple’s daughter, Louise, then 14, split her time between her parents, who both continued to live in Longboat Key.
Harris reports assets between $7.7- and $36.8-million, according to the most recently available federal financial disclosure reports. But much of that can be attributed to her husband’s assets, including InterCon, which showed a value last year of $5-million to $25-million.
Ed Rollins, Harris’ former top campaign strategist, said Harris’ decision last spring to put millions of her own money into her campaign was one of the rare times she consulted her husband about the race.
She told her staff that she would not touch money from her husband or her family, a fortune built by her grandfather, legendary cattle and citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin, whose name graces the University of Florida football stadium.
It’s looking like Anders Ebbeson and Katherine Harris will have a great deal more time to spend togethersoon.
An exclusive WESH 2 News-Orlando Sentinel poll showed Democrat Bill Nelson with a huge lead in his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate.
The poll showed Nelson leading with 57 percent of voters favoring him to 31 percent for Republican candidate Katherine Harris.
Nelson was out shaking hands with voters at a hobnob in Orlando on Thursday night. Harris did not attend.