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Incumbent Myriam Irizarry squeaks out victory to remain on Pinellas County bench

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Myriam Irizarry appears to have won a narrow victory over former state Rep. Dwight Dudley to retain the judicial seat she won last year by appointment.

Irizarry polled about 78,575 votes, or about 50.38 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Dudley was about 0.76 percent behind with 77,382 votes. That’s far enough behind to avoid a recount. But there were still some provisional ballots out late Tuesday night, although it does not appear that there were enough to change the results.

In the other judicial race for County Judge Group 8, assistant state attorney Dora Komninos won a landslide victory against Curtis Korsko, a Tampa lawyer who has also served as a civil traffic offense hearing officer. Komninos won about 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

The race between Dudley and Irizarry was hotly contested. It centered on experience, with both candidates claiming they had the best experience for the job. Dudley had argued that Irizarry lacks trial experience in Florida.

Irizarry countered that Dudley was misrepresenting her experience because he did not give her credit for past legal and trial work she had done in New Jersey.

Irizarry is a native of Puerto Rico whose family moved to New York when she was a child. She and her six siblings were raised by a single mother. With help from tuition-aid programs, she was graduated from Rutgers College and Rutgers-Newark School of Law and was admitted to practice in 1981.

Irizarry followed her family to Florida and joined The Florida Bar in 1995. She went to work for the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. Her first job involved teaching the clerks about criminal law and legal procedures. She was promoted through the ranks until she became general counsel for the clerk of court and oversaw the smooth running of the office and court system. Her duties included representing the clerk’s office in administrative hearings and conducting hearings over employment disputes.

Irizarry was appointed last year to the seat by Gov. Rick Scott. She contended that the year’s experience on the bench gave her the edge in the race.

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