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Experienced lawyers head toward judgeship

Published November 8, 2006


Two veterans from the criminal justice system - a prosecutor and an assistant public defender - were voted to judgeships in the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Tuesday.

Pat Siracusa, a prosecutor in Pinellas County for 11 years, had a lead on family lawyer LeAnne Lake late Tuesday. With almost all the precincts reporting, Siracusa had 53 percent of the vote.

Siracusa won the Group 32 bench, which will be vacated at year's end by Judge Brandt Downey, who was forced to retire because of ethical troubles.

In another race, assistant public defender Christine "Chris" Helinger defeated prosecutor Glenn Martin. With most precincts reporting, Helinger held 59.9 percent of the vote to take the Group 9 circuit judgeship currently held by Judge Crockett Farnell, who is retiring.

Helinger has been an assistant public defender for 25 years, while Martin has been a prosecutor for 22 years.

"I feel very fortunate," Helinger said Tuesday night. Helinger took 44.1 percent of the vote in the September primary while Martin came in second with 28.4 percent, eliminating a third candidate, fellow prosecutor Mary Handsel. Handsel supported Martin in the general election, but Helinger, whose husband is a St. Petersburg lawyer, glided to victory.

Siracusa almost won the 50 percent needed for victory in a three-way race in the September primary. But Lake won enough of that vote to force a run-off. The third candidate eliminated in that race, private lawyer Mark Schleben, supported Lake.

"I'd like to thank my family and supporters and I'm honored by the voters' selection of me," Siracusa said late Tuesday night.

[Last modified November 8, 2006, 02:47:35]

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