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Gwen Margolis Will Have to Work to Hold Off David Richardson in 2016

March 5, 2015 - 6:00pm

Gwen Margolis has to know she will have a fight on her hands if she wants to stay in Tallahassee.

Now 80, Margolis has one of the longest political careers in Florida. She first came to Tallahassee after winning a House seat all the way back in 1974. She moved to the Senate after the 1980 elections and rose to become Senate president in 1990, the first woman to lead that chamber. But Margolis experienced a setback in 1992 when she ran for Congress against Clay Shaw and lost. Afterward, she served on the Miami-Dade County Commission before returning to the Senate in 2002.

But, once again, Margolis stumbled when she tried for higher office. In 2008, despite getting the most votes in November, Margolis lost the runoff in the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser race while fellow Democrat Dan Gelber won her Senate seat. But Gelber left in 2010 to run unsuccessfully for attorney general leading to yet a third stint in the Senate for Margolis. In 2012, Republicans put forth an impressive candidate in John Couriel but Margolis kept her seat.

Now Margolis faces a major threat from her own party. After two terms in the House, David Richardson filed to run against Margolis in 2016 and he shows no signs of backing down. In January, Richardson doubled down on his campaign, loaning his campaign $100,000 and raising almost $14,000.

Richardson has done a surprisingly good job of vaulting from accounting to politics. After Richard Steinberg bowed out after facing stalking charges, Richardson won a crowded primary to claim his House seat. Since then, Richardson has been moving up, now serving as the ranking Democrat on the Rules, Calendar and Ethics Committee. Thats a good post for someone at the start of his second term.

Margolis has delayed her fundraising efforts, not raising anything from the start of April until the end of January. In February, she stepped up her efforts, bringing in $6,500. But at the end of February, she barely had $17,000 in the bank.

Plenty of politicians have stayed too long in their posts and scores of veteran legislators in their 70s and 80s have gone down to defeat. Margolis is certainly staring that possibility in the face. To be sure, whatever her problems when she has tried to move higher, she is popular in her district. But she will face a fight next year to hold onto her seat after more than 40 years in politics. This will be one to watch in 2016.

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

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