TAMPA — One judicial incumbent in Hillsborough County clinched a second term Tuesday, while another had a nail-biting wait to see whether he would lose his spot on the circuit bench.
The race between incumbent Circuit Judge Kevin Carey and veteran family law attorney Catherine Catlin was close all night, but Catlin had a slight edge after all precincts had reported.
"I'm so honored that so many people believed in me," she said. "It went against the norm to go against an incumbent."
Catlin, however, expected a recount. A difference in the vote tally of less than 0.5 percent would trigger an automatic machine recount, according to County Judge James Dominguez, chairman of the canvassing board.
The Group 7 race was the most contentious and expensive of all the judicial campaigns. Both netted more than $100,000 in contributions, though Carey had spent about $15,000 more than Catlin as of last week.
Both candidates distributed campaign literature that questioned the other's competency. Carey accused Catlin of accepting improper contributions from the law firm she owns; Catlin said Carey, a one-term judge, was "inefficient and ineffective."
Incumbent Martha Cook handily beat her challenger, solo practitioner Constance Daniels, in Group 30. The win keeps Cook, a former civil attorney and mediator, on the bench for another six-year term.
"I'm blessed and gratified that the voters re-elected me," said Cook, who tracked election results Tuesday night with her family and friends at Tate Brothers Pizza on Davis Islands.
Voters appeared to favor the more seasoned candidates.
In Group 1, top vote getter Caroline Tesche touted her legal experience, which nearly tripled that of opponent Jason Montes.
Tesche, who ran unsuccessfully for judge in 2006, brings to the bench 20 years as a practicing attorney. She worked as an assistant Hillsborough County public defender and assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade County.
Samantha Ward, one of Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt's top assistants, had a dominant lead Tuesday night over private attorney Miriam Velez in Group 2.
As of last week, Velez had slightly outspent Ward. But Ward, who lost a race two years ago, has been an attorney three times as long. Once a prosecutor, she worked as an assistant public defender for 14 years.
Experience and hefty endorsements also set Lisa Campbell apart from opponent Linda Courtney Clark. Campbell, a lawyer for 17 years, dominated in the Group 21 race, beating Clark, a lawyer for seven years.
Campbell works as a partner for the law firm of Stewart, Twine and Campbell and served as an assistant Hillsborough public defender for 14 years. Her list of endorsements included some of the area's most well-known and seasoned lawyers. She also had the support of Sheriff David Gee.
Staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.