Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan, above, looks like he’s heading to an automatic recount with challenger Richard Brian Kaplan. Courtesy photo

The polls are closed. The results are in. South Florida has spoken, and a new judiciary awaits. From landslides to nail biters, which candidates made the cut?

The race was excruciatingly close for some incumbent South Florida judges, who scrambled to keep their seats.

Challenger Richard Brian Kaplan gave incumbent Judge Michael Usan a run for his money in the 2018 elections. Courtesy photo.

Early Wednesday, Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan seemed he might lose his job to challenger Richard Brian Kaplan in what was a suspenseful race. At that  time, Kaplan had 50.2 percent of the vote, a mere 714 votes ahead of incumbent Usan. But by late afternoon, Usan had pulled ahead with 50.07 percent of the vote compared with Kaplan’s 49.93 percent. The pair appear to be headed for an automatic recount, with about 336 votes separating them at deadline.

Kaplan is civil litigation director at the state Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel-District, where he’s served for the past decade.

Here are the full results of judicial races across South Florida:

Judge Ernest Albert Kollra’s seat on the Broward Circuit bench appeared in peril Tuesday night as challenger Alan B. Schneider’s votes mounted. By late Wednesday afternoon, Kollra captured 50.5 percent of the votes compared with Schneider’s 49.5 percent.

Judge David C. Miller also faced strong opposition from Cole, Scott & Kissane Miami partner Elisabeth Espinosa but won re-election to his Miami-Dade circuit seat with more than 52 percent of the vote.

Miller and Espinosa share a controversial history as her firm sought to disqualify the incumbent from its cases relatively early in the election cycle. Cole Scott was denied that bid by the Third District Court of Appeal in June.

Related: Lawyers Debate Cole Scott’s Move to Throw Judge David Miller Off Cases

Broward County Court Judge Michael Davis had little trouble defeating Rhoda Ann Sokoloff’s bid for his seat. Likewise, Broward County Court Judge Robert “Bob” Diaz kept his seat with relative ease, prevailing against defense lawyer Michael John Heise.

Broward County Court Judge Robert W. Lee also breezed ahead of competitor Stephen Leslie Lustig, a civil rights lawyer who hoped to bring ”innovation, pragmatism, temperament, dignity, compassion and good judgment to the bench.”



Fresh Faces and Runoffs

New additions to the bench include criminal defense attorney Yery Marrero, who’s set to become a Miami-Dade Circuit judge after knocking commercial litigator Joe Perkins out of the running with 52 percent of the vote.

Renee Gordon is headed into a runoff with Vivianne del Rio for the Miami-Dade Circuit bench. Photo: J. Albert Diaz

But nine judicial races are headed to runoffs in the Nov. 6 general election. Palm Beach County voters picked only one clear winner — General Magistrate Sara Alijewicz for a County Court seat — sending four other judicial races to a second round. Four runoffs are set in Broward and one in Miami-Dade.

Former Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe finished second with 34 percent of the vote to qualify for a Circuit Court runoff in a race led by former state prosecutor Sarah Willis, who collected 40 percent.

It was neck-and-neck between Corey Amanda Cawthon and Tanner Channing Demmery, who ran for the Broward County Court judgeship along with Leonore M. Greller. Civil litigator Cawthon, 31, ultimately led by around 1,000 votes, closely followed by Demmery, and both will be on the November ballot.

Trial attorney Renee Gordon pulled ahead of her competitors with 48 percent of the vote to face Assistant State Attorney Vivianne del Rio in a Miami-Dade Circuit runoff. Del Rio captured 35 percent of the vote. Criminal and civil lawyer Louis V. Martinez, who got 18 percent, is out of the running.

Meanwhile, family law and bankruptcy attorney Lizzet Martinez enjoyed a 68 percent tally and  victory against Christopher Pracitto for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Court bench, while traffic hearing officer Milena Abreu scored a comfortable win against international law attorney Miguel Mirabal, capturing more than 65 percent of the vote.

Stefanie Camille Moon with 43 percent and Jason Allen-Rosner with 22 percent head into a runoff after a four-way race for the Broward Circuit bench.

Assistant Public Defender Ashley Zuckerman led the most crowded race — in which five candidates sought a Palm Beach County Court judgeship — but didn’t score enough for victory.  She captured 30 percent of the vote and will be on the ballot again in November against Allegra Phillipa Fung, who collected 23 percent.

Voter turnout in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties clocked in at an unusually high 20 percent.

The ‘Top Cop’ Spot

The race for attorney general saw Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw smoke his competition, consumer protection lawyer Ryan Torrens, with a whopping 74 percent of the vote.

Sean Shaw, candidate for attorney general. Courtesy photo.

Shaw will face former judge and federal prosecutor Ashley Moody in the November general election. Although Republican Moody secured a humbler majority than Shaw, she has the backing of Attorney General Pam Bondi, who’s reached her term limit.

Related story: Dade County Bar Association Reviews Judges: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly From the Poll


Other related stories:

Florida Attorney General Showdown: 5 Candidates Battle for the Top Law Job

Alan B. Schneider Challenging Incumbent Judge Ernest Albert Kollra for Broward Circuit Judge

Richard Brian Kaplan Challenging Incumbent Judge Michael Usan for Broward Circuit Court

Judge David Miller and Challenger Elisabeth Espinosa Vie for Miami-Dade Bench