Judicial election results: Recksiedler, incumbent judges win Central Florida races

Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Voters chose to keep embattled Seminole-Brevard Chief Judge Jessica Recksiedler on the bench Tuesday night in the race against Oviedo defense attorney John Mannion.

Five incumbent judges across Central Florida also won their respective races.

With the majority of precincts reporting, Recksiedler garnered 57% of the vote compared to Mannion, who received almost 43% of ballots, according to results from the Florida Division of Elections.

Recksiedler, 49, was elected chief judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit by her peers in 2021 after serving in criminal and civil circuit court for more than a decade, according to her judicial biography.

Recksiedler came under criticism by Mannion, a former longtime prosecutor, during the campaign for being previously disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court over her driving record. The chief judge’s handling of certain cases, including the case of Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin, also received scrutiny.

She faced backlash after denying Aguirre-Jarquin a new trial for his double murder conviction in the 2004 killings of two women despite new DNA evidence and witness testimony about another suspect. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed with Recksiedler’s decision, overturning the conviction.

Aguirre-Jarquin was released from death row after prosecutors dropped the case during his new trial.

In an email to supporters, Recksiedler pushed back against that criticism. While the state’s high court believed the evidence in Aguirre-Jarquin’s case was sufficient for a new trial, justices “did not comment on whether the Defendant was innocent,” according to the email.

Voters in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties also decided 14 other judicial races Tuesday night.

Voters elected to keep two incumbents running for circuit judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties.

Circuit Judge Vincent Chiu fended off a challenge from Orlando civil attorney Aldo Bartolone in the Group 44 race, winning handily with nearly 67% of the vote after the majority of precincts reported.

Circuit Judge John Beamer is keeping his seat in the Group 14 race after eking out a win with 53% of voters compared to personal injury lawyer Michael Stewart, who obtained almost 47% of the vote after nearly all precincts reported their totals.

Voters preferred former Orlando prosecutor Alison Kerestes in the open spot for circuit judge in Group 9. With the majority of precincts reporting, she beat Winter Park personal injury attorney Fay Olga Pappas with almost 56% of the vote.

Incumbent county judges Andrew Bain, Elizabeth Starr and Elizabeth Gibson retained their spots on the judicial bench against their challengers with an overwhelming majority of votes, according to results from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

Amanda Sampaio Bova, a senior attorney for the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, will be the new county judge in Group 9 after beating prosecutor Steven Casey Miller with 68% of the vote after most precincts were reported.

A county judge race in Seminole was on track for a runoff in the November general election because no candidate won the majority of votes, according to results from the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections.

With nearly all precincts reporting, retired Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester picked up almost 48% of the vote in Group 5, but it wasn’t enough to beat his two opponents, attorneys Carsandra “Sandy” Buie and Erik Swenk. Buie garnered 33% of the vote, while Swenk received 19% of ballots.

Complete election coverage can be found at OrlandoSentinel.com/election.