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John Couriel, Jose Pazos Try Again to Get to Tallahassee

December 4, 2014 - 6:00pm

Sometimes politicians can win from losing. Case in point: John Couriel, the Republican candidate who gave longtime South Florida Democrat Gwen Margolis a fight in 2012 and who is off and running for a Florida House seat representing parts of Miami-Dade in 2016.

Couriels background is impressive. The son of a Cuban refugee who came to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan during the 1960s, Couriel went to Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude, edited the Harvard Political Review and interned with Jeb Bushs Foundation for Florida's Future. After graduating from Harvard Law, Couriel law-clerked for a federal judge, worked in powerhouse law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell and went on to work as assistant U.S. attorney.

In 2012, Couriel ran against Margolis and ended up taking 38 percent against her in the general election. But Couriel emerged as something of a winner, winning Republican hearts for challenging Margolis and taking the fight to her. There was no shame losing to a Democrat who had been winning elections in South Florida for 40 years, especially when she had Barack Obama and Bill Nelson pumping out turnout in her strongly Democratic district.

Now Couriel is back. Back in August, he filed to run for the House seat currently held by Erik Fresen who faces term limits in 2016. So far, Couriel has already hauled in $11,500 and hell need it. Democrats targeted Fresen this year and think their chances will be better in a presidential election year.

But Couriel doesnt have an open shot at the nomination. Last month, condo association manager Jose Pazos filed to run. Pazos has some valuable allies since Juan Zapata and Julio Robaina are co-workers. But Pazos did not exactly impress when he ran for a Florida House seat back in 2010, placing fourth behind Michael Bileca who won the crowded primary with 40 percent. Pazos did not break double digits, taking 8 percent and finishing behind Bileca, Ralph Rosado and Ana Alliegro but placing above three other candidates.

Ross Hancock is also back. Hancock came very close to beating Fresen as a Democrat in 2012, coming up short by 1,400 votes and losing by 1.4 percent. But things went south for Hancock in 2014 as Democrats lined up behind Daisy Baez. Fresen beat her by 3,500 votes while Hancock pulled in 1,357 votes with no party affiliation, taking less than 3.5 percent of the total vote. Hancock is back running with no party affiliation.

All three candidates will look to bounce back from previous losses and they can expect a Democrat or two in the mix as well as additional Republicans. Two years out, this House race is going to be one to watch come 2016.

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

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