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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 3, 2004 17 years ago

Hillsborough Incumbents Prevail

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Thirteenth Circuit judges, most of them appointees, hold their seats.

Hillsborough Incumbents Prevail

Thirteenth Circuit judges, most of them appointees, hold their seats.

By David R. Corder

Associate Editor

Nine-year-old Lauren had an urgent message Tuesday evening for her father, Hillsborough County Judge Paul Huey, as he watched the TV for election results. Anticipation heightened as the monitor displayed his colleaguesi results. Then a news flash about an unrelated race interrupted the progression, leaving Huey puzzled, and slightly annoyed, about his campaign results. Thatis about when Lauren exclaimed: iDaddy! Youire winning with 2%.i

As months of anticipation passed, it was nothing but smiles, laughs and good cheer for the group of incumbent Hillsborough judges that handily defeated their challengers during the 2004 primary election.

The election this year of this slate of judges reflects the quality work they have done over the years, says Tampa creditorsi rights attorney Gil Singer. He stopped by County Judge Charlotte Andersonis campaign party to wish her well.

iTheyire all exceedingly fair and courteous to lawyers and go out of their way to make sure there is fairness especially in small claims and county civil court,i Singer says. iThe county civil bench is extremely qualified without exception. You know what your getting there. Win, lose or draw, people get a fair shake in county court in my opinion.i

This election cycle, too, also saw the voters pick first-time candidate Liz Rice, a popular attorney backed by many of Tampais legal elite, as the choice to replace retiring county Judge Elvin Martinez. She earned 48.45% of the vote in the race against Chubb Insurance Co. attorney Henry Gill, 25.95%, and civil trial attorney Brad Souders, 25.60%.

But it was Huey, appointed to the bench in 2001, who scored the most decisive victory out of the four contested judicial races this election cycle in Hillsborough. Huey won 72.63% of the popular vote in a race against Victor H. Veschio, a Nixon & Associates creditorsi rights attorney who received 27.37% of the vote.

Friends who joined county Judge Charlotte Anderson at her campaign party expressed great satisfaction as early results indicated she would defeat challenger Kim Hernandez Vance, a Cohn & Cohn PA commercial litigator. Anderson, who enjoys considerable bipartisan support throughout the community, earned 63.73% of the vote. Vance received 36.27%. This also was Andersonis fourth consecutive election victory since her first race in 1994.

The gap narrowed considerably, however, in the two other judicial races.

In a hotly contested campaign, Circuit Judge Charles iEdi Bergmann, appointed to the bench in 2002, won 57.89% of the vote in his race against family law attorney Beth Gilmore Reineke, who received 42.11% of the vote. This campaign produced considerable acrimony as the newly formed Hillsborough Judicial Campaign Practices Committee fielded complaints from each candidate about the otheris campaign activities. The committee cited each for single violations of the rules that govern judicial elections.

On the other hand, county Judge Art McNeil ran a much quieter campaign in his victory over attorney Chris DeBock, a one-time prosecutor and public defender. McNeil, appointed to the bench last year, won 56.92% to DeBockis 43.08%.

Although itis unclear how much impact it had, the amount of money raised by the winning Hillsborough judicial candidates far outpaced that raised by their challengers.

The most recent campaign contribution reports show Bergmann led all fundraisers. About 316 contributors gave $134,640 to his campaign as of Aug. 6. His challenger, Reineke, reported $10,697 in contributions as of July 30.

Nearly 600 contributors gave about $81,813 in cash to Hueyis campaign, according to an Aug. 27 report. His challenger, Veschio, received $3,425 from 42 contributors.

About 290 contributors gave Anderson about $47,725, compared to the $27,041 that Vance received from 188 contributors.

McNeil received about $44,125 from 228 contributors, while DeBock most recently reported $500 from just two contributors.

In the race to replace Martinez, Rice led all fundraisers. She received $67,160 from 472 contributors. Around 280 contributors gave $62,580 to Souders. Gill received about $21,065 from 156 contributors.

Bergmann says the fundraising and volunteer effort surprised him.

iIt was totally unexpected,i he says. iOne of the rewarding things I experienced in this race was the way all my friends and family pitched in. When I started, I figured if I raised just $10,000 that would be a lot.i

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