The incumbent is Jacqueline Schwartz, a veteran Miami-Dade judge who has presided over thousands of cases.
The challenger is former Miami-Dade police officer Frank Bocanegra, who retired after a long career, then got a job defending the poor accused of crimes.
The sole Miami-Dade judicial race on the Nov.4 ballot features two lawyers who have long track records in public service.
Seven other contested judicial races were decided in the August primary election.
This race almost didn’t happen. In a three-way race in August, Schwartz got 49.4 percent of the vote, just a shade under what she needed to win the outright majority. Bocanegra earned over 31 percent of the vote, placing second in front of defense lawyer Rachel Glorioso Dooley.
Schwartz has been on the bench for 12 years, serving at the central Miami criminal courthouses, as well as the Hialeah and North Dade branches. She also taught for three years at Miami Dade College, and serves as a “Big Sister” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami, according to her bio.
She did not return a call for comment.
“Experience is a good thing for the bench,” said her campaign manager, Bob Levy. “She’s handled thousands of cases. She teaches. She has a solid record of community service.”
Her campaign has raised over $310,000, dwarfing Bocanegra’s $74,702.
Schwartz’s campaign, however, got some negative publicity last month after a Coconut Grove store clerk complained that the judge cursed her out in complaining about a campaign opponent’s sign at the business. The judge called Miami code enforcement officers, who ordered the sign taken down because it was too big.
Dooley’s colleague filed a complaint with the Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission over the episode.
As for Bocanegra, he served over 30 years with Miami-Dade police, rising to the rank of major while earning his law degree. He also served more than a year as the town manager of Miami Lakes.
After retiring from the police force, Bocanegra went against the grain, not joining the state attorney’s office but getting a job with the public defender’s office in 2011. At 61, he is still working there.
He also teaches part time at Miami Dade College and St. Thomas University.
“I want to have balance and I believe in the system,” Bocanegra said, adding: “It’s important judges know and understand the community. I want to continue in public service.”
The judicial race isn’t the only courts-related item on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Voters must also choose whether they want to retain Miami appeals court judges Barbara Lagoa, Thomas Logue and Vance E. Salter.