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Politics

SD 35: Gwen Margolis Faces A Well-Funded GOP Opponent in John Couriel

July 15, 2012 - 6:00pm

As she looks to extend her lengthy political career, state Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, is feeling the heat as her Republican opponent in SD 35 posted an impressive fundraising haul in his first month on the campaign trail in Miami-Dade County.

A veteran politician who was first elected to the House in 1974, Margolis is currently in her third stint in the Florida Senate. She served as Senate president in the early 1990s and spent almost a decade on the Miami-Dade County Commission, including six years as chairperson.

But while she has been on the Florida political stage for almost four decades, Margolis has had some setbacks in her political career -- for example, losing a congressional race to Clay Shaw. She suffered a defeat in 2008 when she was the leading candidate in the race for Miami-Dade property appraiser. However, in the general election Margolis did not receive a majority of the votes, forcing her into a runoff with Pedro Garcia in December 2009. Margolis launched a legal challenge, arguing that she did not need a majority of the votes to win the election. The court rejected that argument and so did the voters. While Margolis won 42 percent of the vote in the first election to Garcias 31 percent, the tables were turned in December when Garcia ran off with more than 59 percent of the final vote.

When Dan Gelber left the Florida Senate to run for attorney general. Margolis returned to Tallahassee to pick up his seat, defeating former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns, who also ran for the U.S. Senate that election cycle, in the Democratic primary.

Margolis raised almost $41,000 in the second quarter of 2012 and kept her powder dry, spending more than $3,500 of it. So far her fundraising in the 2012 election cycle has been underwhelming, especially given her decades in Florida politics. As of the end of the second quarter of 2012, Margolis has raised almost $89,000 and has kept most of it in the bank, spending more than $11,000. As she looks to continue her political career, Margolis has been forced to loan her campaign $160,000, including $150,000 she dumped in her campaign in the first quarter of 2012.

While she did not face a Republican opponent to start her third tenure in the Senate back in 2010, Margolis has drawn a GOP foe this time out -- a former federal prosecutor who has hit the ground running in terms of fundraising. Since entering the race on June 6, attorney John Couriel has raised more than $104,000 and spent almost $3,750 -- letting him stash more than $100,000 in the bank in his first month as a candidate.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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