Veteran prosecutor Mary Handsel appeared headed to the Pinellas-Pasco bench in a three-person race Tuesday, though a second judicial race will head to a runoff in November.
According to unofficial results late Tuesday, with all but one precinct reporting, Handsel had won just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Group 6 judgeship, meaning she likely will attain retiring Judge Marion Fleming's bench without a runoff. Clearwater lawyer Bruce Howie was a dozen points behind, while Assistant Public Defender Violet Assaid took just over one in 10 votes.
Handsel, an 18-year veteran of the State Attorney's Office, lost an election bid in 2006. She was a finalist for an appointed judgeship that same year.
Reached earlier in the evening, Handsel said it was too close to call herself judge. "It looks good but, it's still close," she said. "We'll know in the morning. It would be a blessing, but I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch."
In the Group 8 race, in unofficial and incomplete returns, Assistant Public Defender Susan Gardner and lawyer Robert Williams will head to a runoff on Nov. 4. Gardner took more than 42 percent of the vote while Williams had more than 33 percent.
Port Richey lawyer Kenneth Foote took one in four votes and was eliminated.
Either Williams or Gardner will win the seat vacated by retiring Judge Wayne Cobb.