Hillsborough voters elect two circuit judges

Published August 26 2014
Updated August 27 2014

TAMPA — Voters elected two new Hillsborough County circuit court judges Tuesday, but two more races are headed for a final decision in November after none of the candidates in them secured more than half the vote.

Circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms.

Group 8: In a three-way race, the two top vote getters, Barbara Twine Thomas and Carl C. Hinson, will face each other in the Nov. 4 general election. Thomas, who has twice been nominated for a judicial appointment but never chosen, lead with more than two-fifths of the vote. Hinson won abut a third and the third-place candidate, John Dingfelder, received about a quarter of the vote.

Thomas, 61, has her own practice in Tampa, focusing mainly on family law.

Hinson, 54, drew most of his support from the rural parts of the county and raised the most money. He has spent his career working in civil litigation, building a practice primarily on personal injury law.

Dingfelder, 57, entered the race with significant name recognition, as he was twice elected to a seat on the Tampa City Council. He has since opened his own law practice, working on both criminal and civil cases.

Group 19: In the most lopsided race among Hillsborough circuit court elections this year, Michael Scionti won a judgeship with about two-thirds of the vote.

Scionti, 45, has worked as an assistant attorney general, an assistant state attorney and an assistant statewide prosecutor. His opponent, Michael John Brannigan, 45, practices personal injury law.

Scionti entered the race with vastly more name recognition and financial support. Though he currently is in private practice, he was twice elected to the Florida House and served as a diplomat for the U.S. State Department. While in office, he served in Afghanistan as a member of the Army Reserve, where he has been a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps for 14 years. By primary day, his campaign had raised roughly $98,000 and he had loaned it $50,000 of his own money.

Brannigan, who works for Hogan Law Firm in Hernando County and is the city attorney for Crystal River in Citrus County, had a smaller base of support in Hillsborough. His campaign raised $5,100 and he loaned himself $7,700.

Group 20: Political observers expected this to be a close race, and it was. Despite decades of experience at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, Karen Stanley, 58, appeared to lose the race to Laura Ward, the 34-year-old daughter of retired Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ed Ward.

Ward was winning with more than half the vote with most returns counted late Tuesday.

Stanley started at the State Attorney's Office in 1989, working her way up to the sex crimes unit. In 2001, she was named chief assistant state attorney and put in charge of day-to-day supervision of 120 lawyers.

Ward has spent the past decade working for the law firm DLA Piper, where she specializes in complex commercial law.

Both candidates poured thousands of dollars of their own money into the race. Stanley loaned her campaign $70,000 and raised $113,00. Ward topped that. She loaned her campaign $85,000 and raised $118,820.

Group 34: This race drew three candidates, two of whom — Robert Bauman and Melissa "Missy" Polo — will compete in the November election. Bauman got the most votes, with Polo next and then Constance Daniels.

Bauman, 54, has worked for a private law firm specializing in civil litigation since 1991. Earlier this year, he was nominated by the local judicial nominating commission to fill a vacant judicial seat, but was not selected.

Polo, 45, spent four years as a Hills­borough prosecutor before joining a private firm focusing on personal injury law. She has since opened her own practice. Daniels, 47, is primarily a criminal defense lawyer with a solo law practice.