Gary Farmer in runoff election for circuit judge

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The former Senate Democratic Leader decided to leave the legislative arena when redistricting moved his district.

Primary election night left former Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer in a runoff election with the second finisher in his contest for circuit judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit, which covers Broward County.

Farmer received 39% of 237,387 votes cast for circuit judge, Group 23, compared to Tania Marie Williams, who received 32%. The third candidate, Rhoda Sokoloff, trailed with 29%.

In nonpartisan elections like this one, rules require that the winning candidate receive at least 51% of the votes, according to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Farmer was ousted as Senate Democratic Leader near the end of the 2021 Session in favor of Sen. Lauren Book. Then, Farmer opted to run for circuit court judge when this year’s redistricting drew him out of Senate District 34. That process put him in the same district, Senate District 37, as Sen. Jason Pizzo, which also includes part of Miami-Dade County.

Farmer had pondered a run for the Democratic nomination to fill retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s seat, but then he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Gary Farmer Sr., who served 20 years on the Fourth District Court of Appeal before retiring in 2010, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The Sentinel’s editorial board endorsed him as judge, saying they believed he would be able to avoid the partisanship that was evident during his legislative career that judges have to avoid.

“He has a thorough understanding of the courts and their relationship to the other two branches of government,” the editorial said.

Two other Broward County judge races in the 17th Judicial Circuit also are facing runoffs. And another might be headed for a recount. 

Incumbent Judge Mardi Levey Cohen received 50.08% of the votes to Kaysia Monica Earley’s 49.92%. Levey Cohen’s margin of victory is just 0.15 percentage points more than Earley’s. The canvassing board is meeting about it at 4 p.m. today to weigh a runoff.

Voters will also be considering a runoff between Lorena Mastrarrigo and Tamar Hamilton for an open seat for circuit judge, Group 51. Another runoff in November will put Chris Marion Brown and Suzette Hyde competing for an open seat for county court judge.

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