01/25/2013 06:19 EST | Updated 01/26/2013 10:32 EST

Sandra Pupatello's Bio Reveals Brash Style


Sandra Pupatello is widely seen as the front-runner to become Ontario's next premier, but her biography remains a mystery to many.

She is a resident of Windsor, Ontario, holds a bachelor of arts degree from University of Windsor and was named that city's Woman of the Year in 2003.

UPDATE:Kathleen Wynne has been elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and will be the province's first woman -- and openly gay -- premier.

She is 50 years old and is married to Jim Bennett, a lawyer and politician in Newfoundland And Labrador.

She was previously married to Fabio Pupatello, of the well-known Windsor construction family, and told the Ottawa Citizen she kept the last name because that's what people knew her as. Her last name at birth was Pizzolitto.

Pupatello has tried repeatedly to have children without success, according to the Toronto Star. In 2003 she became pregnant via in-vitro fertilization, but later miscarried.

She is of Italian descent.

A Liberal since the age of 14, Pupatello was first elected to Ontario's legislature in 1995 and became a cabinet minister when the Liberals won the election in 2003.

She took on various portfolios over the years, from education to community and social services to economic development and trade — her dream job. That diverse background will help her lead the province and preserve its public services, Pupatello argued.

"This accumulated experience as a minister — on the social side, on education, on industry — tells me that when we have good jobs in Ontario, we as a Liberal government get to do the things we want to do," she said.

Known for her high heels, big hair and brash style, Pupatello always spoke her mind and quickly earned the reputation of an attack dog in the legislature. But she's mellowed since then, she said.

"When I entered the house in 1995, you spoke up or you got rolled over," she said of her Opposition days. "And I wasn't going to let that happen for the people of Ontario."

But even as a minister, her sharp tongue sometimes landed her in hot water. In 2009, she had to apologize after calling Toronto residents "a bunch of babies" for complaining three days into a garbage strike, when Windsor had quietly been suffering through a three-month garbage strike at the time.

She has admitted that she's made some "errors in judgment" over the years, but says she has learned from her mistakes and has a different style now.

Throughout the campaign, Pupatell has emphasized her role in attracting jobs when she was international trade and investment minister from 2008 to 2009, when Ontario was in the throes of a recession.

She is seen as a centrist, or even centre-right candidate.

Pupatello currently does not hold a seat in the legislature. If she becomes premier, a Liberal MPP will likely step down so she can run in a byelection. Pupatello has said that, if elected, she will maintain the prorogation of the legislature until she wins a seat.

If she wins the race, Pupatello will make history as Ontario's first female premier.

With files from The Canadian Press

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