Hernando state attorney won’t run again. Forty Tampa Bay judges poised for automatic re-election

Nine Tampa Bay-area judicial races drew multiple candidates to appear on the ballot later this year.
The Lady Justice sculpture stands in front of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court in downtown Tampa.
The Lady Justice sculpture stands in front of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court in downtown Tampa. [ TIMES (2017) ]
Published April 24, 2020

As the qualifying deadline for judicial elections arrived at noon Friday, one longtime state attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Hernando County, told the Tampa Bay Times that he will not run for re-election.

Brad King, who has served as state attorney for the five-county Fifth Judicial Circuit since 1988, said in a lengthy written statement he wanted to spend more time with his family, including a young son he and his wife adopted last year.

“I have been a part of the office since 1981 and all I have ever done is prosecute crime in the fifth circuit,” King wrote. “I believe I have fulfilled my promise to the public to be a prosecutor and not a politician.”

Bill Gladson, King’s executive director, was the only candidate for the office to have qualified Friday, ensuring his automatic election as King’s successor.

A total of 40 incumbent Tampa Bay-area judges appeared poised to be automatically re-elected without opposition.

At the same time, nine judicial seats saw multiple candidates qualify to compete to become circuit and county judges in elections later this year. One state attorney with jurisdiction in the Tampa Bay area will also face opposition for reelection.

Here is a rundown of who qualified and which races will see contests:

Mike Perotti, a Republican and lawyer for the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office, will face the incumbent Democrat Andrew Warren in the race for Hillsborough state attorney.

Sara Beth Mollo, the chief assistant to longtime Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger, will succeed Dillinger when he retires at the end of this year. Mollo qualified for the top job with no opposition.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe also qualified with no opposition, securing what will be his eighth term in office.

Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt also faces no opposition for reelection, ensuring her an eighth term representing the county’s indigent defendants.

In Hillsborough County, two well-respected Tampa lawyers will automatically take seats as circuit judges, having drawn no opposition.

They include longtime defense attorney and former prosecutor Lyann Goudie, who has recently been in the spotlight for her vigorous representation of defendants in two high-profile cases, one of which resulted in a man being freed after decades on death row.

Lindsay Alvarez, a civil and commercial litigation lawyer and former prosecutor, also takes a seat on the circuit bench. She boasted endorsements from a large swath of the local legal community, including a former state attorney, a former chief judge, and numerous members of the defense bar.

Nine local judicial races will see contests. They include two races in Hillsborough County, in which incumbent judges face challengers.

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Circuit judge Michael Scionti, a former state legislator and diplomat, faces a challenge from Lithia attorney Ashley Ivanov.

Circuit Judge Scott Stephens faces a challenge from Tampa family law and bankruptcy attorney Wendy DePaul.

Three other Hillsborough contests will see lawyers campaigning for a seat on the circuit bench.

The most crowded race includes Greg Green and Gary Dolgin, both lawyers who have run before, along with a third candidate, Scott Bonavita.

Helene Daniel and Danny Alvarez will face each other in the race for circuit group 30. And Kelly Ayers and John Schifino will campaign in group 9.

Nancy Jacobs, Monique Scott, Rickey Silverman and Bill Yanger will compete for one open seat on the Hillsborough County bench.

In the Pinellas-Pasco circuit, Evan Frayman and Eva Vergos will face each other in the group 28 race. Elizabeth Jack and Ashley Ward-Singleton will compete in the group 48 race.

Joseph Justice and Catie Manslfield will compete in the race for Pasco County judge.

In addition to the local races, voters this year will decide whether to keep one Florida Supreme Court justice and four judges of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Carlos Muñiz, who was appointed to the high court by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019, faces a merit retention vote. Appellate judges Drew Atkinson, Morris Silberman, Daniel Sleet, and Andrea Teves Smith will also be on the ballot.

The following judges qualified with no opposition and were automatically re-elected:

Hillsborough Circuit

Caroline Tesche Arkin, Samantha Ward, Michael Williams, Catherine Catlin, Barbara Twine Thomas, Rex Barbas, Lawrence Lefler, Laura Ward, Lisa Campbell, Vivian Corvo, Nick Nazaretian, Katherine Essrig, Robert Bauman, Michelle Sisco, Christopher Sabella, and Thomas Palermo.

Hillsborough County

Cynthia Oster, John Conrad, Margaret Taylor, and Jessica Costello.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit

Susan St. John, Alicia Polk, Mary Handsel, Pamela Campbell, Susan Barthle, Kimberly Byrd, Fred Pollack, Phil Matthey, Shawn Crane, Linda Babb, Anthony Rondolino, James Stearns, Christopher LaBruzzo, Daniel Diskey, Linda Allan, and George Jirotka.

Pinellas County

Edwin Jagger, James Pierce, Robert Dittmer, and John Carassas.

Hernando County

Kurt Hitzemann