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Foster breaks ahead, takes lead over Baldwin

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


TAMPA -- As results trickled slowly in Tuesday night, longtime lawyer Robert Foster Jr. pulled slightly ahead of former prosecutor Leland Baldwin in a hard-fought battle for a circuit court seat.

Foster, relaxing at his sister's south Tampa home, said it was too early to tell.

"I'm very happy with the faith the citizens have put in," he said. "We need to see what comes out in the county."

"We've run a clean race," said Foster, 53. "And she's a very formidable opponent."

Surrounded by supporters, Baldwin said she was thankful.

"We're feeling very positive," she said. "Good karma. I just feel very honored."

The two were the last of four candidates to survive in a hot race to replace retiring Circuit Judge Ralph Steinberg. Attorneys Ellen Ware and David Dee were ousted in the primary.

Foster, a Tampa native and member of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, handles criminal and family law cases from his downtown office. In his campaign, he touted his 25 years of varied legal experience.

If elected, Foster would become half of Tampa's only husband-and-wife judicial team. He is married to Circuit Judge Florence Foster.

Gainesville-born Baldwin, who once sparred with a defense lawyer on Larry King Live and is the daughter of an oft-quoted Constitutional law professor, is no stranger to headlines. Baldwin, who turns 38 today, won guilty verdicts in 1997 for three young people accused of pulling up a stop sign and causing a wreck that left three men dead. She also weathered controversy after a witness in that case accused her of threatening him. A year earlier, she had testified against a jail inmate accused of plotting to have her killed. He was convicted.

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