TAMPA — The lines have been drawn in a series of contested judicial elections in Hillsborough County — and it appears that voters excited by the rare prospect of a challenge to a sitting judge will have to wait.
Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, a longtime jurist known for presiding with pith and occasional severity over the courthouse's sex crimes division, had faced a challenge from defense attorney William Knight.
Knight had butted heads with Tharpe during the trial and sentencing of Ethel Anderson, an award-winning Riverview schoolteacher who in September was found guilty of performing oral sex and other lewd acts on a 12-year-old boy she tutored. Tharpe sentenced her to 38 years in prison.
Knight filed to run against Tharpe — an unusual move, as incumbent judges in Hillsborough County rarely face opponents when they come up for re-election.
But last month Knight withdrew from the race, leaving Tharpe unopposed. On Friday, he said he reconsidered his decision to run for personal reasons but declined to go into details.
His decision means that no incumbent judges will face a fight at the ballot box during the Aug. 26 election.
As the qualifying period for judicial candidates ended on Friday, however, there were four contested races for open Circuit Court seats:
Former chief assistant state attorney Karen Stanley is running against attorney Laura Ward.
Michael Scionti, a former prosecutor and state representative, is running against Michael J. Brannigan, an attorney who practices with a firm in Hernando County.
Former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder is running against attorneys Carl Hinson and Barbara Twine Thomas.
Attorneys Robert Bauman, Constance Daniels and Melissa "Missy" Polo are running for the fourth open judge's seat.