Four incumbent Miami-Dade judges won back their seats Tuesday as voters ushered in two new judges and set the stage for a pair of runoff elections in November.
With 96 percent of the vote counted, the final race appeared headed for a recount as incumbent county judge Fred Seraphin led challenger Milena Abreu – but only a few hundred votes.
The most glaring loser was Mami-Dade Circuit Judge Jason Bloch, who filed a lawsuit to boot his opponent, Marcia del Rey, from the ballot. His lawsuit suggested — but offered no evidence — that del Rey was profiting from nefarious activities at a chain of motels she owns with her family.
The salacious allegations didn’t matter. Bloch lost by some four percentage points.
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“I am proud of the positive campaign we ran and I'm humbled that the voters of Miami-Dade County have put their trust in me and I commit to not letting them down to make our home a better place for our children,” del Rey said in a statement Tuesday night.
Del Rey is the first Miami-Dade judge to graduate from Florida International University’s law school, which graduated its inaugural class in 2005.
In all, nine seats were up for grabs in Miami-Dade, five for the circuit bench, four for county.
Because of rules limiting campaigning, judicial races are normally staid affairs, but this year had offered compelling story lines.
In the most high-profile race was Bloch, who had unsuccessfully sued to get del Rey off the ballot, alleging that she was hiding the source of her income from ownership of a motel in Puerto Rico. She and her family also own a string of erotic hotels in Miami.
The lawsuit also went after del Rey for campaign ads in which she claimed to be a former prosecutor, even though she was listed as fired before being sworn in. Another Miami-Dade judge threw out the lawsuit on Friday.
In another highly visible race, incumbent Circuit Judge Robert Luck won by a comfortable margin over challenger Yolly Roberson, a former state legislator.
Also retaining his seat was Circuit Judge Jorge Sarduy, a one-time high school dropout who had been a judge since 2008 but was running his first contested campaign. He beat lawyer Elena Ortega-Tauler.
“I’m a man of faith. First thing I did was say, ‘Thank you God,’ ” Sarduy said Tuesday. “It’s been a long journey. I’m just honored Dade County believed in me.”
Two of the open circuit races are headed to a November runoff.
In one race, Mark Blumstein and Luis Perez-Medina appeared to be the candidates that will square off after getting more votes than Renee Gordon and Denise Martinez-Sanziani. In the other race, Carol Breece and Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts will duel in November, with candidate Rosy Aponte out.
Longtime incumbent Ed Newman beat challenger Lizzet Martinez, while Judge Wendall Graham easily won over Antonio Jimenez. In the other open county seat, Linda Luce trounced Ruben Alcoba.