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13 years after losing contentious race, Declan Mansfield appointed to the bench

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

More than a decade after losing a judicial campaign to an opponent who would later be removed from office, Declan Mansfield has been appointed to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court bench.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment Friday afternoon.

In 2003, Mansfield lost a contentious race to John Renke III, the politically connected son of a former state House member who spent nearly $100,000 on his campaign.

Based on career experience and qualifications, Mansfield was the superior candidate (I offer that analysis having worked for the political consulting firm that represented Renke). He received the overwhelming majority of important endorsements and had much wider support in the legal community.

What Renke had was a willingness to run the kind of campaign not normally seen from an aspiring judge.

The Florida Supreme Court removed Renke from the bench in 2006 for “flagrant misrepresentations made to the voting public” and for “serious campaign financial misconduct” involving $95,800 in illegal contributions from his father’s law firm during his campaign.

“In our decision to remove Judge Renke, we have concluded that the series of blatant, knowing misrepresentations found in Judge Renke’s campaign literature and in his statements to the press amount to nothing short of fraud on the electorate in an effort to secure a seat on the bench,” the majority wrote in a 2006 opinion.

Among the fraudulent campaigning tactics by Renke upheld by the Court were:

  • Creating the impression that he was running as an incumbent judge when he was not;
  • A deliberate attempt to convey to the public he was chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District; and
  • Giving the false impression he was officially endorsed by local firefighters.

The case originally came to the Florida Supreme Court in July 2004, when the Judicial Qualifications Commission charged Renke only with campaign literature violations.

 Despite the loss, Mansfield did not abandon his desire to wear the black. The Fordham University School of Law graduate will replace 21-year Judge William Webb, who is set to retire at the end of the year.

“Declan has many years of experience in the courtroom and demonstrates a clear understanding of the law,” Governor Scott said in a news release. “I’m confident in his ability to serve Florida families on the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court bench.”

The 6th Judicial Circuit comprises Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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