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Well-known names likely to meet in runoff // HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY JUDGE

Name recognition _ even notoriety _ seemed to be the deciding factor in the crowded Group 8 race for Hillsborough County judge.

Because none of the five candidates was able to win a majority of votes, a Nov. 5 runoff will decide who will replace Judge Katherine Essrig, who is running for Circuit Court.

With about 80 percent of the precincts reporting, former Hillsborough prosecutor Elizabeth "Betsey" Hapner and Tampa lawyer Mark Wolfe, 40, a former Traffic Court magistrate in his third judicial race, seemed likely to compete in the runoff.

Close behind was corporate lawyer Walter Burnside.

Bill Byrd, 40, a lawyer for insurance giant CIGNA Corp., was fourth and Doug Roberts, 52, also a former prosecutor, who resigned his post as an assistant public defender to run for office, was a distant fifth.

County judges are elected in non-partisan races to four-year terms. They earn $92,995 a year.

Judicial ethics prevent candidates from making promises or statements that might affect their ability to be fair and impartial if elected, so the races often hinge on resumes and name recognition.

Both Burnside, 34, the son of a longtime county judge and grandson of a well-known local lawyer, and Hapner, 39, whose divorce turned ugly during the campaign when she filed for domestic violence protection against her husband, seemed to benefit from publicity associated with their names.

"I just think the voters saw through the adverse attacks by my estranged husband" and realized that she was the most qualified and experienced candidate, Hapner said.

Burnside credited a media campaign that targeted people who have voted consistently in judicial races for his strong showing.

"I think it's also a nice tribute to my father, because I'm sure a lot of his friends have stepped up to the plate for me," he said.

In the Group 3 race to replace Judge Don Castor, who is retiring, Joelle Ann Ober, 39, a former Hillsborough prosecutor and assistant public defender running for the second time, held a commanding lead over veteran Tampa lawyer Ira Weinstein, 58.

"We are very energized," said Ober, who did little campaigning and raised a fraction of Weinstein's campaign war chest. "We are in good spirits and we hope this keeps up."

In the Group 13 race, Manuel Lopez, 45, a former Hillsborough prosecutor and assistant public defender, was leading A.J. "Stan" Musial Jr., 47, a Tampa lawyer and distant cousin of the famed baseball player.

"It looks promising," Lopez said.

_ Staff writer Babita Persaud contributed to this article.