Recksiedler, incumbent judges win Central Florida races

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 throughout Central Florida also won their respective contests.

With a majority of precincts reporting, Recksiedler had 57 percent of the vote compared to Mannion, who received nearly 43 percent of the ballots, according to results from the Florida Department of Elections.

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

Recksiedler was criticized by Mannion, a former longtime district attorney, during the campaign because she had previously been disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court over her driving record. The chief justice’s handling of some cases, including that of Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin, also came under scrutiny.

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

Aguirre-Jarquin was freed from the death penalty after prosecutors withdrew the case during his retrial.

In an email to supporters, Recksiedler countered that criticism. While the state’s highest court believed the evidence in Aguirre-Jarquin’s case was sufficient for a new trial, the 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 retain two incumbents for circuit judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties.

District Judge Vincent Chiu fended off a challenge from Orlando civil lawyer Aldo Bartolone in the Group 44 race, winning easily with nearly 67 percent of the vote after a majority of precincts reported.

Circuit Judge John Beamer retains his seat in the Group 14 race after winning 53 percent of voters compared to personal injury attorney Michael Stewart, who had nearly 47 percent of the vote after nearly all districts reported their totals.

Voters preferred former Orlando District Attorney Alison Kerestes to the open circuit judge seat in Group 9. With a majority of precincts reporting, she beat Winter Park personal injury attorney Faye Olga Pappas with nearly 56 percent of the vote.

Incumbent County Judges Andrew Bain, Elizabeth Starr and Elizabeth Gibson retained their seats on the bench over their challengers by a landslide, 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 District Attorney Steven Casey Miller with 68 percent of the vote after most precincts reported.

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

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

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

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