TAMPA — A dozen Hillsborough County judges sailed quietly into new terms Friday, re-elected after no one signed up to run against them.
Two others weren't as lucky.
Circuit Judge Liz Rice and County Judge Dick Greco Jr. — appointed to their positions by the governor last year — face opposition. The weeklong qualifying period for judicial office elections ended at noon Friday.
Rice was challenged by Zilia C. Vasquez, a dependency and criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. She was admitted to the Florida Bar on May 24, 1990, the same day as Rice.
"I think the courthouse and the judicial system should be a little more effective, concise and efficient than it currently is," Vasquez said.
Rice said she believes in the elective process, which is how she first won a spot on the county bench in 2004. She now hears family law cases.
"Hopefully I'm doing a good job, and the voters will recognize that and will allow me to keep my job here in circuit," Rice said.
Greco will face Lanell Williams-Yulee, a criminal defense and family law lawyer with 19 years of legal experience.
She did not return a call for comment Friday.
Greco — who served 11 years as a county and circuit judge, returned to private practice and then was sent back to the bench — said he looks forward to getting out on the campaign trail.
"I certainly just think that I am the most qualified candidate for the position, and I would just stand on my background, training and experience," he said.
Circuit Judges Manuel Lopez, Debra Behnke, Charles "Ed" Bergmann, Denise Almeida-Pomponio, Susan Sexton, William Fuente, Emmett Lamar Battles and Tom Barber were re-elected without opposition.
County judges James Dominguez, Nick Nazaretian, Art McNeil and Paul Jeske also avoided contested races.
A lawyer who filed to run against Jeske backed out after realizing he was ineligible.
State law requires lawyers to be members of the Florida Bar for five years prior to qualifying for a county judge election. Mario Torres, admitted to the Bar in October 2005, fell six months short.
Ironically, he could have legally run for a spot on the loftier circuit bench, where candidates need to have five years of Bar membership at the time they take office.
"I'll wait till 2012," said Torres, who already had a campaign website up and running. "When I take a position, I want to make sure I'm fully prepared for it."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.