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    Circuit judges draw little opposition

    Only one Pinellas-Pasco judge is challenged in the circuit, but retirements have put several hopefuls in races for the bench.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 18, 2002

    Most Pinellas-Pasco judges facing re-election sailed through unopposed Friday, the last day of qualifying for circuit judgeships.

    The only judge in the circuit being opposed is Wayne Cobb, who presides in Dade City and was appointed to the bench in 1977. Cobb faces a challenge from Assistant Public Defender Chris Yeazell, who works out of Largo.

    This marks the first time that Cobb has ever been opposed in an election.

    Elsewhere, judicial retirements are setting up the only other opposed races.

    In Pinellas County, the retirement of David Seth Walker, the longest-serving circuit judge in Florida, has lured two men into the race: former Dunedin City Commissioner Jack St. Arnold and Robert "Bo" Michael, who lost a race for a Pinellas County judgeship in 2000. Walker was appointed in 1970.

    In Pasco, the retirement of Maynard Swanson in Dade City after 25 years on the bench brings three attorneys to a campaign battle: Linda Babb, a Dade City prosecutor; George H. Brown, who lost a close county judgeship race in 1998 to Amy Williams; and Sarah Chaves, who herself lost a close circuit race to Mark Shames in 1996.

    Also in Pasco, New Port Richey attorneys John Renke III, son of former state Rep. John Renke, and Declan Mansfield are vying for the seat opened with the retirement of Judge Joseph G. Donahey Jr.

    Donahey was blinded by back surgery in 1999 and is retiring after about seven years on the bench.

    A change in state law this past year rolled back the qualifications deadline from July to May.

    The state Legislature has also created a new circuit judgeship. But the qualifications deadline for that race doesn't come until noon on July 26.

    Circuit judges who are re-elected unopposed are: Lauren C. Laughlin, Raymond Gross, W. Lowell Bray, Marion L. Fleming, James R. Case, Walt Logan, Mark Shames, Stanley R. Mills, Anthony Rondolino, Bruce Boyer, Tim Peters, John A. Schaefer and Daniel D. Diskey.

    No Pinellas County judges are up for re-election this year.

    The nonpartisan circuit job pays $130,000 per year.

    The election is circuitwide, which means the winners in contested races will be decided by voters in both Pinellas and Pasco.

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