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Maye clings to small lead over Levens // CIRCUIT JUDGE GROUP 27

For the two candidates for Hillsborough Circuit Judge Group 27, Tuesday was nail-biting time.

Lawyer Vivan Maye, who held a small lead for most of the night, spent the evening visiting the campaign headquarters and parties of other candidates with her father and daughter. Her opponent, fellow lawyer Bill Levens, watched election returns with about 50 supporters in the recreation room of a Bayshore high-rise.

Maye said she was encouraged when she learned she had pulled ahead.

"Regardless of what happens, I worked as hard as I possibly could in this campaign, and I met so many nice people _ it's a victory for me," she said.

Levens, too, was optimistic.

"I hope for and I'm looking forward to the opportunity for going in a new direction, a new challenge, being elevated to a position of high public trust," he said.

The Tampa-born Maye, 38, was both a prosecutor and assistant public defender and has been working in private practice in family law, juvenile, criminal and civil court.

Levens, 49, who has been a sole practitioner since 1985, works in workers' compensation, personal injury and Social Security disability cases.

The race is for the $104,620-a-year job of presiding over larger civil and felony criminal cases.

Both candidates seemed to realize it could be a long night.

"We're having fun," said Levens. "Obviously, I'm hoping for a career change."

"I'm taking it slow," said Maye. "Real slow."