Gloria Walker, Meshon Rawls win seats on bench

Virginia

Southeast / Virginia 13 Views

Both women will be sworn in as judges on Jan. 8.

History was made Tuesday night when two African-American women were elected to area judicial seats.

Gloria Walker easily outpolled David Robertson for the 8th Circuit bench while Meshon Rawls edged out Craig DeThomasis for the Alachua County post.

“It’s unbelievable and remarkable — the enormous support and encouragement from the communities circuitwide,” Walker said. “I’m very surprised. I was told I could not win this race.”

The evening was more of a nail-biter for Rawls — she maintained a small lead throughout before eventually closing with about 51.8 percent of the vote to 48.2 for DeThomasis. The race was decided only by Alachua County voters.

“I feel like I gave it my all,” Rawls said. “I’m very excited. I got excited after the primary. We’ve had people who were committed to this.”

Both will be sworn in Jan. 8. They both had parties at downtown restaurants as the results were coming in and shared many supporters, who could easily be spotted walking between the two restaurants in T-shirts and campaign buttons for Walker and Rawls.

Walker scored big in Alachua County, nearly doubling Robertson’s votes. Robertson won the other counties in the circuit — Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union — but they have far fewer voters and could not close the gap for Robertson.

Overall, about 56.1 percent of the vote went to Walker and 43.9 for Robertson.

The circuit race was uncharacteristically controversial and partisan, given that Florida judicial codes state that candidates must “maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the impartiality, integrity, and independence of the judiciary.”

An email from a person no one seems to know was sent to circuit attorneys regarding a petty theft charge decades ago in Broward County against a Glorimil Rosario, Walker’s given name. It insinuates that Walker never disclosed a charge to the Judicial Qualifications Committee when she applied for judicial appointments.

No additional documents, such as an arrest report or sworn complaint, that could shed light on the charge, could be found in the court system.

Robertson filed a complaint with The Florida Bar regarding the charge. The Bar said it could not investigate because it has no authority for that, adding that Walker was vetted when she applied.

Walker denied being charged with petty theft and said the email and complaint were part of a smear campaign.

Meanwhile, Florida Statute 105.09 states that no political party or partisan political organization can endorse, support, or assist any candidate in a campaign for election to judicial office. It is a misdemeanor for any person or organization to do that.

"Any person who knowingly, in an individual capacity or as an officer of an organization, violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083," the law states.

Yet the local Republican Party publically campaigned for Robertson.

The contest between DeThomasis and Rawls was more low-key, with the candidates explaining their qualifications to voters and not disparaging each other.

"I'm absolutely proud of the campaign that we ran and that it was recognized as a model of civility for judicial campaigns. I'm thankful for the people that helped me along the way," DeThomasis said. "I've said all along that it takes two campaigns to maintain civility and professionalism, and I appreciate that from Meshon and her supporters."

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