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Joe Geller Clear Favorite for Open House Seat in South Florida

April 9, 2014 - 6:00pm
With his leading opponent dropping out of the race, Joe Geller has become the strong favorite to win the Florida House seat currently held by Joe Gibbons.

Geller is a longtime leader in South Florida. A prominent attorney who was a leader with the American Jewish Congress, Geller led the Miami-Dade Democrats for more than 10 years and served two terms as North Bay Village mayor.

In the year hes been in the race, Geller has built an impressive war chest. By the end of February, Geller had raised $93,250 and loaned his campaign $25,000. He spent just under $28,500. To be sure, Geller has stumbled before. When he ran for a Florida House seat in 2008, Geller lost to Richard Steinberg in the primary. But with his background, Geller is set to make noise in Tallahassee if elected.

It looked like Geller was going to be in for a fight with an old warhorse taking on an up-and-coming Democrat in the primary. Only in his early 30s, Alex Lewy was poised to offer Geller a good fight. Lewy has some electoral success, serving on the Hallandale Beach City Commission. He also has some ties to much better known Democrats, including being a Kendrick Meek staffer and leading the Florida Young Democrats.

Lewy appeared to be holding his own with Geller in the money chase. Since entering in early April, Lewy had brought in more than $85,500 by the end of February, spending around $19,150. But Lewy announced this week that he was pulling out of the race and resigning from the Hallandale Beach City Commission to lead AIPACs Miami chapter.

With Lewy out, Geller is the current front-runner in this race though he will face at least two Democrats in the primary. Ben Sorenson brings an interesting background as a Navy veteran, a businessman and a pastor to the race but he has struggled with fundraising. Since getting in at the end of August, Sorenson has raised less than $16,500, loaned his campaign $8,000 and spent around $18,750 by the end of February.

Teacher John Paul Alvarez has had similar problems. Alvarez ran for a Florida House seat in 2012 and gave John Tobia a scare, almost beating him as Democrats came out to vote for Barack Obama and Bill Nelson. But Alvarez has flopped in his new district. Since jumping in the race last March, Alvarez has brought in $9,050, loaned his campaign around $9,630 and spent almost $7,240.

Whoever wins on the Democratic side should be headed to Tallahassee though there is a Republican and a Libertarian in the race. Attorney Martin Feigenbaum should appeal to economic conservatives as he runs for the Republican nomination but hes done next to nothing on fundraising since entering the race at the start of December, raising $1,075, loaning his campaign $3,000 and spending around $1,000. Activist Omar Recuero, who is running as a Libertarian, has done even less, raising less than $600, loaning his campaign $200 and spending less than $95.

This is a very solid Democratic district and its telling that Gibbons had no opponents in the general election last time out. A last-minute candidate could, of course, file but for the moment Geller is a clear favorite.

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

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