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State attorneys set for significant turnover in 2020 elections

Senior Editor Top Stories

Public defenders have fewer races

Vote smartHalf of Florida’s state attorney offices will have contested races this year, while only three of 19 public defender posts have drawn more than one candidate.

There will be a significant turnover of state attorneys, as seven did not seek reelection, plus another five face ballot challenges, which includes a race where one of the challengers has no party affiliation.

By contrast, 14 incumbent public defenders were reelected without opposition and two of the four retiring public defenders were replaced without a contested election. Only one incumbent faces an election challenge.

(The 20th Circuit public defender and state attorney positions will be on the ballot in the 2022 election cycle; all others are up this year.)

Perhaps the most notable state attorney race is in the 17th Circuit, where 10 candidates have filed to replace retiring long-time incumbent Michael Satz. That includes eight Democrats: David Cannady, Teresa Fanning-Williams, Joe Kimok, James “Jimmy” Stewart Lewis, Justin McCormack, Sarahnell Murphy, Harold Fernandez Pryor, and Joshua David Rydell. Gregg Rossman is the sole Republican candidate, while Sheila D. Alu has filed without party affiliation.

The Ninth Circuit has also attracted multiple candidates with Deborah Lynne Barra, Belvin Perry, Jr., Ryan Williams, and Monique Worrell filing in the Democratic primary. Jose Torroella has filed without party affiliation, which means only Democrats will be able to vote in the primary. The winner will replace incumbent State Attorney Aramis Ayala., who is not seeking re-election.

In other state attorney races:

• In the Third Circuit, John F. Durrett and Tina Seifert have filed in the Republican primary. Since no other candidates have filed, all voters regardless of party affiliation will be able to vote in that race in the August 18 primary. The winner replaces Acting State Attorney David A. Phelps who was recently appointed when State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister stepped down for personal reasons.

• In the Seventh Circuit, incumbent Republican State Attorney R.J. Larizza faces Don Dempsey, with no party affiliation, in the November general election.

• In the Eighth Circuit, Republican Brian Kramer faces Democrat Beverly R. McCallum in the November election. The winner replaces long-time State Attorney Bill Cervone.

• In the 11th Circuit, incumbent Democrat State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle faces a primary challenge from Melba V. Pearson. Since no other candidates filed, all voters will be able to cast ballots in the primary.

• In the 12th Circuit, incumbent Republican State Attorney Ed Brodsky faces a primary challenge from Lisa Chittaro, and the winner faces Democrat Betsy Young in November.

• In the 13th Circuit, incumbent Democrat Andrew Warren is being challenged by Republican Mike Perotti on the November ballot.

• In the 14th Circuit, Republicans Larry Basford and Wes Hatcher will be on the primary ballot. Since no other candidates filed, all voters will be able to cast ballots. The winner will replace State Attorney Glenn Hess.

• In the 16th Circuit, incumbent Republican State Attorney Dennis W. Ward has a primary challenge from Mark E. Kohl, with the winner facing Democrat Donald C. Barrett in November,

Elected without opposition were Ginger Bowden Madden in the First Circuit, Jack Campbell in the Second Circuit, Melissa Nelson in the Fourth Circuit, William M. Gladson in the Fifth Circuit, Bernie McCabe in the Sixth Circuit, Brian Haas in the 10th Circuit, Dave Aronberg in the 15th Circuit, Phil Archer in the 18th Circuit, and Tom Bakkedahl in the 19th Circuit. All but Bowden Madden, Gladson, and Bakkedahl are incumbents.

In public defender races, there are contests only in the Second, Seventh, and 17th circuits. In every other circuit, except two, the incumbent has been re-elected with opposition. Newcomers Sara Beth Mollo (replacing Public Defender Bob Dillinger) in the Sixth Circuit and Cliff Wilson, Jr. (replacing Public Defender Blair Payne), in the Third Circuit were elected without opposition.

In the Second Circuit, incumbent Democrat Andy Thomas faces a primary challenge from Jessica Yeary. Since no other candidates filed, all voters are eligible in that primary.

In the Seventh Circuit, Republicans George Burden, Anne Marie Gennusa, and Matt Metz filed. Since no other candidates filed, all voters can cast ballots in that primary. The winner replaces James S. Purdy.

In the 17th Circuit, Ruby Leona Green, Tom Lynch, and Gordon Weekes filed in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing only write-in candidate Brion Ross in November. Because of the write-in candidate, only Democrats can vote in that primary. The winner will replace Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

Incumbent public defenders elected without opposition are Bruce A. Miller in the First Circuit, Charlie Cofer in the Fourth Circuit, Mike Graves in the Fifth Circuit, Stacy Ann Scott in the Eighth Circuit, Bob Wesley in the Ninth Circuit, Rex Dimmig in the 10th Circuit, Carlos J. Martinez in the 11th Circuit, Larry Eger in the 12th Circuit, Julianne M. Holt in the 13th Circuit, Henry Mark Sims in the 14th Circuit, Carey Haughwout in the 15th Circuit, Robert Lockwood in the 16th Circuit, Blaise Trettis in the 18th Circuit, and Diamond R. Litty in the 19th Circuit.

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