TAMPA — A former city councilman, a former state representative and several former prosecutors all are vying for open judgeships this year.
In all, 12 candidates will appear on the ballot, competing for four open circuit court seats and one contested county court post. Two of the circuit judge elections are three-way races.
In the four contested circuit judge races:
Former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder is running against Carl C. Hinson and Barbara Twine Thomas for the Group 8 seat, replacing retiring Judge James D. Arnold.
Former state Rep. Michael Scionti will face Michael John Brannigan for the Group 19 seat, replacing retiring Chief Judge Manny Menendez Jr.
Former prosecutor Karen Stanley will face Laura Ward for the Group 20 seat, replacing retiring Judge Sam Pendino.
Robert Bauman, Constance Daniels and Melissa “Missy” Polo will compete for the Group 34 seat, replacing retiring Judge James Barton II.
At the county court level, there will be one competitive race. Norman S. Cannella Jr. is looking to unseat Chris Nash, who was appointed to the bench last year.
All the judicial candidates are practicing lawyers and by law, all run without party affiliation, although at least two, Dingfelder and Scionti, have histories of political involvement as Democrats — Dingfelder as a party activist and Scionti as a state House member.
Judicial candidates are restricted in their campaign activities, limited mainly to talking about their qualifications and experience and barred from talking about how they might rule on issues.
The Hillsborough Bar Association asked its approximately 6,700 members their opinions of the judicial candidates. About 15 percent of the members, or 996 lawyers, cast votes online. According to the association, members were asked to consider specific attributes of each candidate, including knowledge of the law and legal ability, professional temperament and conduct, and community involvement.
The judicial candidates will appear on Hillsborough ballots in the primary election, Aug. 26. Early voting begins Aug. 16.
Here are profiles of each candidate with campaign contributions as of June 26; bar poll results may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.
Education: B.S. University of Florida, 1978; M.S. Virginia Tech, 1979; Attended Florida State University Law 1985-86; J.D. and member of law review UF College of Law, 1988.
Family: Married to Lynn Marvin Dingfelder; three grown children, Sadie, Saul and Chris.
Professional experience: 25 years civil and criminal litigation; currently self-employed attorney; previously worked as a lawyer for Carlton Fields, County Attorney’s Office, Scarritt Law Group, Public Defender’s Office. Volunteered with Bay Area Legal Services and as intake attorney for Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Other employment: state purchasing contracts specialist and Hillsborough County public school teacher.
Political experience: Elected to Tampa City Council 2003 and 2007; served on public boards over the past 20 years — Bayshore Task Force; MacDill Joint Land Use Study; City Council Public Works; chair City Council Public Safety; vice chair Tampa Community Redevelopment Agency; vice chair Hillsborough Area Regional Transit; Metropolitan Planning Organization; Hillsborough River Board; Hillsborough County Arts Council; city of Tampa Variance Review Board; County Hospital Authority and Health Care Advisory Board; Charter Review Board; Hillsborough County Landscape and Land Alterations Variance Board; Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Board.
Why vote for him: “Seeking election to the bench is a natural continuation of my many years of public service in this community. After 25 years of practicing law and almost two decades of community service, I believe I have the maturity, intelligence, integrity, temperament and life experience to make an excellent circuit court judge.”
Campaign contributions: $46,000 from 292 contributors, including a $1,000 loan he made to his campaign.
Bar poll results: 40 percent of 343 voters highly approve; 40 percent approve and 20 percent do not approve.
Carl C. Hinson
Education: Hillsborough High School; A.A. Hillsborough Community College; B.A. in management University of South Florida; J.D. Nova University.
Family: Married to Yvette. Daughter, Vanessa.
Professional experience: Practiced law 27 years, representing thousands of clients and trying hundreds of cases in court.
Political experience: None. Why vote for him: “With nearly 30 years of legal experience inside the courtroom, I bring a unique and seasoned perspective to the bench. As a practicing attorney, I understand firsthand just how important it is that judges be fair and impartial, honest and trustworthy, courteous to all litigants in their courtroom.”
Campaign contributions: $167,000 from 390 contributors, including $50,000 he loaned the campaign.
Bar poll results: 69 percent of 272 voters highly approve; 28 percent approve and 3 percent do not approve.
Barbara Twine Thomas
Education: B.A. biology and chemistry education University of South Florida; J.D. University of Florida.
Family: Married to Henry E. Thomas, attorney. Raised two sons, Quincy and Anwar.
Professional experience: 30 years practicing law, primarily civil. Served as managing attorney of a legal services office; special counsel to the Virgin Islands Department of Justice; general counsel to Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority; senior attorney for Hillsborough County government; board counsel for city of Tampa; associate at Stewart, Joyner, Jordan Holmes; partner at Stewart Twine & Campbell. Owner of sole practice, handling marital and family law, wills, probate and general civil litigation. Handled 10 jury trials and approximately 300 state court bench trials, plus administrative matters and arbitrations.
Political experience: None.
Why vote for her: “I seek judicial office in the spirit of service to this community and I have a proven long-standing record of service and community leadership. Working as a judge will allow me to utilize my talents and skills to their highest potential.”
Campaign contributions: $62,000 from 183 contributors, including $35,000 she loaned to the campaign.
Bar poll results: 41 percent of 278 voters highly approve; 37 percent approve and 22 percent do not approve.
Education: J.D. South Texas College of Law 1996; B.S. criminal justice Florida State University 1990; H.B. Plant High School 1986; graduate Army Command and General Staff College 2011; graduate Army Military Intelligence Officer Advance 2007; graduate Army Military Intelligence Officer Basic 2007; graduate Army Judge Advocate Advance 2006; graduate Army Judge Advocate Basic 2000.
Family: Married 10 years to Zsuzsanna, a pediatric physician in residency at Tampa General and All Children’s hospitals.
Professional experience: Private practice since 2006; judge advocate Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps since 2000; senior diplomat Department of State 2011-13; deputy assistant secretary Department of Defense 2009-11; assistant statewide prosecutor 2002-06; assistant state attorney 1998-02; assistant attorney general, state of Florida 1996-98.
Political experience: State representative, Florida House of Representatives, representing parts of Tampa 2006-09.
Why vote for him: “I have spent my entire legal career protecting the rights of others in and out of the courtroom, on and off the battlefield, and throughout all branches of government.”
Bar poll results: 63 percent of 356 voters highly approve; 33 percent approve and 4 percent do not approve.
Campaign contributions: $135,000 from 323 contributors, including a $50,000 loan he made to the campaign.
Michael John Brannigan
Education: Attended Jesuit High School and graduated from Chamberlain High in 1987. Philosophy degree University of South Florida; J.D. South Texas College of Law 1995.
Family: Married 18 years to Allison Brannigan. Daughter, Reagan Kathleen, 10.
Professional experience: Prosecutor with 6th Judicial Circuit, Pinellas County, 1995-2000; Solo practitioner 2000-06; Hogan Law Firm since 2006.
Political experience: None
Why vote for him: “I have the hands-on experience of having worked in a variety of legal areas, all governed by Florida statutes, codes and case law. I am not a political insider, but rather an attorney who works in and knows and understands the local court system.”
Campaign contributions: one $400 contribution, and he loaned campaign $6,700.
Bar poll results: 18 percent of 55 voters highly approve; 58 percent approve and 24 percent do not approve.
Education: Leto High School 1974; B.S. in finance University of South Florida 1986; J.D. Stetson University College of Law 1989.
Family: Parents Marguerite Summers Stanley and the late Elmo Wendell Stanley. Siblings Terri Stanley Couey, Wendell Bryan Stanley and the late Debra Stanley Sohl.
Professional experience: Started as assistant state attorney 1989. Promoted 1996 to division chief of Sex Crimes/Child Abuse Unit. Promoted to Felony Bureau chief in 1998. Tried hundreds of cases, including capital sexual battery and first degree murder cases. In 2000, co-owned and managed private practice, representing indigent defendants. Practice included criminal defense, family law and civil cases. Returned to State Attorney’s Office in 2001 as chief assistant state attorney. Supervised over 100 attorneys and 180 support personnel and worked closely with law enforcement agencies throughout Hillsborough County. Resigned July 2013 to run for circuit court judge.
Political experience: None.
Why vote for her: “As a fifth-generation Tampa native, I have a strong vested interest in my community and have demonstrated my commitment to the citizens of Hillsborough County with years of dedicated service. ... My reputation for being hardworking, trustworthy, respectful and fair throughout my personal life and my legal career has rewarded me with the respect of the judiciary, fellow bar members, law enforcement and community leaders.”
Campaign contributions: $186,000 from 492 contributors, including $70,000 she loaned to the campaign.
Bar poll results: 59 percent of 295 voters highly approve; 33 percent approve and 8 percent do not approve.
Education: Academy of the Holy Names High School; B.S. psychology Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.; J.D. University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor; Magna Cum Laude, Order of the Coif awarded to students graduating in top 10 percent of law school class, University of Michigan Law Review contributing editor.
Family: Married to Mark Rachal; two daughters, ages 2 and 6 months. Daughter of retired Judge Ed Ward and family law mediator Mary Ann Ward.
Professional experience: Law clerk to Judge Charles Wilson 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, handled civil and criminal appeals; DLA Piper, Complex Commercial Litigation Practice, handling business litigation matters in state and federal courts, including appellate; pro bono work including areas of family law and international abduction cases in federal court; director, pro bono, Haley VA Veterans’ Legal Services Clinic; established free legal clinic for veterans at Haley, overseeing clinic operations and participate as volunteer attorney; Hillsborough County Bar Association Outstanding Young Lawyer; statewide Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Services Award
Political experience: None.
Why vote for her: “Serving the citizens of Hillsborough County as a judge is a goal that I have maintained since childhood, when I had numerous opportunities to watch my father, retired Judge Ed Ward, in action. I have been working hard ever since to develop the well-rounded skill set and qualities necessary for circuit court.”
Campaign contributions: $164,000 from 544 contributors, including $50,000 she loaned to her campaign.
Bar poll results: 60 percent of 438 voters highly approve; 33 percent approve and 7 percent do not approve.
Education: University of South Florida 1981, B.A. political science; J.D. University of Dayton School of Law 1984.
Family: Married 18 years to Debra Bauman with stepsons Destin, Skyler and Corbin, and son, Camden.
Professional experience: Gerald Sage P.A. September 1985 to October 1985; assistant public defender November 1985 to June 1988; Morris & Rosen P.A. July 1988 to December 1990; Morris Law Firm January 1991 to present; Florida Supreme Court certified mediator since March 2007.
Political experience: None; nominated for circuit court judge and county court judge by the 13th Judicial Circuit Court Judicial Nominating Commission several times during the past few years.
Why vote for him: “I have the most experience of any candidate in Group 34 with nearly 29 years of legal experience in criminal law, as well as civil litigation and trial work in a vast variety of areas of practice.”
Campaign contributions: $86,000 from 143 contributors with no listed loans.
Bar poll results: 57 percent of 317 voters highly approve; 40 percent approve and 3 percent do not approve.
Education: Glades Central High School; A.A. Santa Fe Community College; B.A. University of Florida; J.D. University of Florida College of Law 1993.
Family: Engaged. One son. Mother is a retired hospice nurse and father, recently deceased, served in the Korean War with the Army.
Professional experience: Worked in the office of former State Attorney Harry Lee Coe; judicial clerk for federal Judge Stephen P. Mickle, staff hearing officer Samuel P. Stafford and attorney James H. McCarthy; worked for Public Defender’s Office one year; private practice since 1997, specializing in family law and criminal law, child abuse cases and personal injury. Selected managing attorney of 12 lawyers and four legal assistants as assistant regional counsel for the state of Florida. Volunteers as teen court judge and truancy judge for Hillsborough County’s Juvenile Diversion Program.
Political experience: None.
Why vote for her: “I bring a diverse background and perspective to the bench. Although I’m not the longest licensed attorney in Group 34, I have the most extensive variety of legal experience. My humble background makes me relatable; hence I can meet people where they are at.”
Campaign contributions: $18,000 from 57 contributors, with no listed loans.
Bar poll results: 16 percent of 101 voters highly approve; 45 percent approve and 40 percent do not approve.
Melissa “Missy” Polo
Education: Tampa Preparatory School 1987; B.A. criminology and law University of Florida 1991; J.D. Loyola University School of Law New Orleans 1995.
Family: Parents Sandra Spoto Polo and Lionel R. Polo; brothers Martin Polo, Michael Polo and Max Polo.
Professional experience: Sole practitioner since April 2009 specializing in personal injury, in areas including medical negligence, nursing home abuse and neglect, wrongful death and auto accidents; also practice in criminal and foreclosure defense; associate attorney Trentalange & Kelley April 2006 to April 2009; associate attorney Reynolds & Stowell August 2002 to March 2006; associate attorney Wilkes & McHugh August 2001 to March 2002; associate attorney Martino, Price and Associates 2000 to 2001; assistant state attorney with Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office 1996 to 2000, including work as senior intake attorney in charge of making filing decisions on felony criminal cases, overseeing production of two paralegals, implementing and operating Juvenile Division’s transfer case decisions, and representing the State Attorney’s Office at professional meetings; also served as line attorney managing an extensive case load and trying jury and non-jury trials.
Political Experience: None.
Why vote for her: “I possess the necessary background, temperament, personal attributes and work ethic to be a good judge and to effectively manage a courtroom while treating everyone who comes before me with dignity and respect.” Campaign contributions: $82,000 from 364 contributors.
Bar poll results: 46 percent of 219 voters highly approve; 41 percent approve and 14 percent do not approve.
County court group 12
Norman S. Cannella Jr.
Education: H.B. Plant High School 1986; University of Florida B.A. criminology 1990; J.D. Thomas Cooley Law School 1996.
Family: Married to Lisa, nurse anesthetist at Tampa General. Two daughters, Cailin, 10, and Ashlin, 8.
Professional experience: Member of Florida Bar since 1996; Member of Middle District Court since 1999; assistant state attorney, lead trial attorney 1996-2001; private practice since 2001.
Political experience: None.
Why vote for him: “Since graduating law school, the courthouse has been my second home. I have spent my entire career in the courtroom and understand the intricacies of running an efficient and effective docket, as well as the importance of a fair, impartial judiciary.”
Campaign contributions: $82,000, including $15,000 he loaned the campaign.
Bar poll results: 22 percent of 254 voters highly approve; 47 percent approve and 30 percent do not approve.
Education: Bloomingdale Senior High School 1989; B.A. political science with honors University of Florida 1993; M.A. business administration University of Florida 1997; J.D. with honors University of Florida 1997.
Family: Married to Amy. Sons Eli, 9, and Charlie, 6.
Professional experience: Private practice 16 years; at Akerman Senterfitt, focused mainly on business litigation, also did business, estate planning, probate, corporate and real estate transactions; in 2004, joined a college friend and formed Leavengood & Nash, which grew from two to 20 employees and focused on business and bankruptcy litigation; Florida Supreme Court certified mediator.
Political experience: Nominated last year to the Hillsborough County Court by the 13th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; appointed to Hillsborough County Court in May 2013; primarily served in County Civil and Traffic Divisions, with additional experience in circuit civil, county criminal, juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency, domestic violence, probate and preliminary presentments.
Why vote for him: “I have the unique perspective of having represented large corporations, insurance companies and financial institutions in the first part of my career, followed by a practice primarily representing consumers and small businesses in the latter part of my career.”
Campaign contributions: $104,000, including a $20,000 loan he made the campaign.
Bar poll results: 77 percent of 430 voters highly approve; 22 percent approve and 1 percent do not approve.