Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews held onto his seat after his first contested election in 13 years on the bench, defeating criminal defense lawyer Deborah Moss, who raised questions about his judicial temperament.
In other Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge races, lawyer Kimberly Todd defeated Assistant State Attorney Susan St. John, and Assistant Public Defender Patrice Moore narrowly defeated civil lawyer Tom Ramsberger.
Four other judicial candidates will face off in two runoff elections.
Andrews has been a circuit and county judge, and has sometimes ruffled feathers among lawyers in his courtroom who say he can be arrogant and abrasive. But Andrews' supporters say he is an efficient judge who works hard to keep cases moving through his court, and who works tirelessly on youth programs outside the court.
Andrews said he felt "blessed and honored" by his election victory, and that he would like to tell voters: "Thank you for the faith and trust that you've placed in me." As to the criticism of his judicial style, he said the voters evidently didn't put weight in it.
Asked what made the difference in the race, Andrews said, "hard work."
Moss could not be reached for comment.
Andrews had been the only African-American circuit judge for Pinellas and Pasco counties. But with Moore's victory, there now are two.
Moore said she was not sure exactly what made the difference in her close contest against Ramsberger, but after she realized she was winning, "I just started crying, it was an unbelievable moment for me."
Moore, who has spent her career in the Public Defender's Office and specializes in mental health issues, said she hoped to be appointed to the unified family court, which handles a variety of cases relating to children.
Todd, a sole practitioner and former assistant state attorney, said, "I'm just thrilled. It was a good race and Susan ran a good race as well." Asked why she won, Todd said, "All along I said it was experience, and I think the voters saw that."
Two other races will be decided by a runoff in the November election. In one, lawyer and former state Rep. Patricia "Trish" Muscarella will face civil and family lawyer Kathryn Marie Welsh. They each got more votes than the third challenger, criminal defense lawyer Edward Liebling.
In the other, lawyer Keith Meyer will face veteran civil litigator Jeff O'Brien, after they finished ahead of Assistant State Attorney Kelly McKnight and lawyer LeAnne Lake.
Meyer has said he has the best all-around experience because he has worked as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney and has handled civil matters. O'Brien has said that after 37 years as a lawyer, he is the one with the best courtroom knowledge.