BROOKSVILLE — Circuit Judge Ric Howard retained his seat in Citrus County with a win Tuesday night, but the contest to join him on the 5th Judicial Circuit bench remains undecided.
Assistant State Attorney Sandy Hawkins and Denise Lyn, an Inverness lawyer, were headed for a November runoff after none of the three candidates in the Group 3 race received more than 50 percent of the vote.
Hawkins received 42 percent, edging out Lyn's 34 percent, according to preliminary vote totals at 9 p.m.
Former prosecutor Michael Lamberti of Spring Hill finished third with more than 20 percent.
For Hawkins, the prospect of a November race isn't new. She narrowly lost a runoff in 2006 to Edward Scott.
"I wanted it to be over, one way or another," she said Tuesday night. "But I'm not surprised. … There's three good candidates there. I've done it before."
Howard won decisively by using his incumbent status, name recognition and well-heeled campaign to best challenger Rhonda Portwood, an Inverness lawyer.
Howard, a Royal Highlands resident, took 60 percent of the vote compared to her 40 percent, preliminary results showed. Portwood ran an insurgent campaign attacking Howard's often controversial sentences in high-profile cases.
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.