When Andrea Totten and more than a dozen other candidates for an appointment to a newly created county judgeship in Flagler were interviewed by the circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission in August 2019, one of the questions members of the panel often asked the candidates was whether they could run a successful election campaign.
Totten may have to wait another six years to find out, if then. She is no longer an “appointed” county judge (Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed her in October 2019). But she has now been duly elected–without opposition.
So has every circuit judge who’d filed for election (or re-election) in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, Volusia, St. Johns and Putnam counties: Circuit Judges Dennis Craig and Matt Foxman, both of whom served as felony judges on the Flagler bench, along with Kenny Janesk, Howard O. McGillin Jr., A. Kathleen McNeilly, Dawn D. Nichols and Stasia Warren, all were elected (in Janesk’s case) or re-elected without opposition when the qualifying window closed at noon last Friday. The qualifying window for candidates for non-judicial offices doesn’t close until noon on June 17.
Most judges don’t face challenges: 30 judges were elected or re-elected in Central Florida circuits alone. This year county court judges are paid $156,377, circuit court judges are paid $165,509.
“I was grateful to receive the news that I will retain my seat as Flagler County Court Judge,” Totten said in a statement. “I have worked hard to be prepared, knowledgeable, and fair since being appointed to the position in 2019. I am honored that my community has entrusted me to continue to serve them. I am also grateful for the support of my family and the community support I received for my campaign.”
Totten is one of 332 county court judges in the state. There are 599 circuit court judges. As a county judge, Totten serves alongside County Judge Melissa Distler and hears misdemeanor and civil cases–small claims, traffic cases, violations, cases involving violations of municipal or county ordinances, animal mistreatment cases, landlord-tenant disputes, and so on.
“When I received the news that the deadline had passed and that I would be unopposed, I was in Tallahassee, accompanying my daughter’s class on a field trip,” Totten said. “By the time we got home Friday evening, I did not have much time or energy for celebration beyond relaxing on the couch, but I am sure I will celebrate with friends and family in the near future. Mostly, I am just glad to be able to focus on my work without the stress or distraction of a campaign.”
The judge had built a campaign chest of just under $10,000, half of it a loan to herself, the other half mostly from lawyers or a law firm, retired law enforcement, personnel at the clerk’s office and a couple of other professionals, all in Flagler or Volusia counties. Totten said she anticipates that after all campaign expenses the balance will be less than $2,000. “My treasurer and I will be carefully reviewing Florida law before making any final decisions about the disposition of surplus funds,” she said. Candidates may disburse their campaign funds to non-profits, pay themselves back or roll funds over to their next campaign.
The Flagler County Republican Club last month hosted Totten and two other judges who were, at the time, campaigning. The club pledged to host the remaining slate of judges in May. It was scheduled to do so this evening at the Hilton garden Inn. But since the remaining judges were elected, they are now barred from appearing at a political club by ethical rules.
This is what happens when enough Dems don’t vote.
I guess Democrats are the answer. What world are you living in? Not one I want, for my kids, or grandkids.
Lance Carroll says
Are you aware that Judge Totten had no opposition as to challenge her judgeship?
It isn’t just Democrats. The republicans aren’t getting our judges in either. I like to refer to the circuit courts as the council of Nepotism, where it’s not about popularity or votes but who you know and who you blow.
We haven’t had a decent judge in years, I’ve seen the tough on cops, tough on dad’s, tough on petty bullshit, but in 35 years we haven’t had a tough on drugs judge, tough on pedophile judge, tough on parental rights judge and I’d really like to see a tough on crime judge. What we need is unbiased judges that are here to enforce the law and help clean up our county. Also would be nice if we had mental health facilities to help people, instead of leaving them and their SSI checks to the mercy of drug dealers. Pretty sad state of affairs our legal system.
“”” What we need is unbiased judges that are here to enforce the law and help clean up our county. “””” Well said, well said indeed.