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At Pinellas-Pasco judge's forum, candidates debate temperament

Times Staff Writer

Eight judicial candidates came to a candidate forum on Tuesday, but only Agnes Theresa McCabe is running against a sitting judge.

So state Rep. Rick Kriseman asked her why she decided to run against Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jack Day.

She said she was running "not just because of my experience but because of my temperament."

"I like to think that I'm well respected in the legal community for my ability to get along with other people," she said.

And earlier in the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club forum, McCabe told the audience that she believes judges must "treat everyone that appears before you with dignity and respect."

To some in the audience, including Kriseman, McCabe seemed to be saying she would have a better judicial temperament than Day. She would not confirm after the forum if that's what she meant.

Day said afterward it goes without saying that "everyone in the courtroom is entitled to respect and consideration and dignity." Asked about McCabe's comments afterward, he said he wasn't sure of her exact meaning, and "if there's a specific incident I'm not aware of it. She has not made me aware of it."

He also added that in court, "I'm very patient to lay people. I have expectations of attorneys to be professional."

McCabe works for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office and was previously assigned to Day's courtroom before she decided to run against him. She is not related to State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

Kriseman received the club's coveted "Fang and Claw" award for that question, deemed to be the forum's toughest.

Day and McCabe are running for the Group 45 Circuit judge seat, which covers Pinellas and Pasco counties. Of the other six candidates who spoke Tuesday, four are running for two other circuit judge positions, and two candidates are running for a county judge seat that only covers Pinellas.

In the Pinellas County judge race, candidate Scott Andringa focused on his experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, and also as a cancer survivor who raises money to combat the disease. Fellow candidate Cathy McKyton said she prides herself not only as a veteran prosecutor, but also as a wife and mom and active Junior League volunteer who believes in "giving back and making a difference."

In the Group 15 race for Pinellas and Pasco counties, Assistant State Attorney Bill Burgess noted that he has had careers as a prosecutor and as a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, and has written a book on Florida's sentencing guidelines. Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold said he has had wide experience in law, as well as his public role as mayor and a leader on various county boards.

In the Group 31 race for Pinellas and Pasco, Brian Battaglia said "I've practiced for 26 years, I've been active in the community" through many years with the community law program and other involvement. Candidate Kimberly "Kim" Campbell, an attorney who recently completed a term as president of the Clearwater Bar Association, said "service to the community is not an action, it is a way of life."

The candidates will be up for election in the Aug. 14 primary.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8232.

At Pinellas-Pasco judge's forum, candidates debate temperament 05/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:17pm]
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