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Judicial candidates air their platforms

Six candidates exchange verbal jabs before a crowd of 100 at a forum presented by the St. Petersburg Bar Association.

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 19, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- County Judge Karl B. Grube quizzed his audience of attorneys and judges Friday about a legal term, asking for a show of hands from those who knew the answer.

His opponent, Assistant Public Defender Kandace Friesen, didn't raise her hand, Grube pointed out.

"I didn't know I was part of the program," Friesen retorted.

Later, Friesen said she decided to challenge Grube, a six-term incumbent whose judicial career began in 1977, through a process that eliminated those she knew and respected and those she thought she couldn't beat. She said she is sure she made the right decision.

Grube, Friesen and four other judicial candidates aired their platforms to a crowd of 100 at a forum presented by the St. Petersburg Bar Association at the Mirror Lake Lyceum. The election is Sept. 5.

Grube said he is a hard-working judge who concludes his cases quickly and was familiar with both criminal and civil cases before he became a judge, Grube said.

"I'm an expert in criminal law," Friesen said. "I can be an expert in civil law."

Grube and Friesen are running for the Group 10 county judge seat.

In Group 7, County Judge Myra Scott McNary is being challenged by St. Petersburg lawyer Robert "Bo" Michael.

"My opponent will say, "My daddy was a judge,' " McNary told the group Friday. "I say, "Big deal. My daddy was a roofer.' " McNary, who was appointed in 1994 and re-elected in 1996, said she is qualified and experienced.

But Michael, who joked after McNary spoke that he wouldn't be able to mention his father, who was in the audience, pointed to McNary's low rankings in the last three Bar polls.

In the latest poll, taken in 1999, McNary ranked 52nd out of 53 judges, and 12 percent of the 121 attorneys who answered the question about her employment said McNary should not be retained, Michael said. But McNary noted she scored above average in each category.

"My opponent wants to start shooting darts. That's fine. She never handled a criminal case before she got on the bench," added Michael, who wants to implement a drug court in Pinellas County.

Circuit Judge William Webb, who presides in Pasco County, is facing challenger Don Peyton, an attorney and former Indiana judge who moved to Florida because the climate is better for his allergy problems.

Peyton was a judge for one year. Webb has been on the bench since 1995.

Peyton, who was a judge for one year, said he's had only one case reversed on appeal.

"I've been there. I've done it. I've done it right," he said.

Webb has been on the bench since 1995 and said he's had three reversals and five cases returned for new trials. No judge likes that, Webb says, but it's not unusual for a judge who has handled hundreds of criminal cases.

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