by Liz Daube
Four judicial candidates talked about the issues facing their campaigns at Wednesday’s meeting of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association.
The JWLA’s annual judicial forum featured two races: Dawn Hudson and Virginia Norton for County Court Group 17 and John Merrett and David Thompson for Circuit Court Group 34.
JWLA spokeswomen said the forum’s audience of more than a hundred was the largest turnout ever, featuring a variety of attorneys, several judges and a handful of people from outside the legal community.
Deborah Greene, past JWLA president, said the Hudson/Norton race is “historic” because it’s the first time both candidates for Duval County judge are women. Although the number of women attorneys in Jacksonville has grown, Greene said, “We are still under-represented in the judiciary.” Only nine of 53 judges in the Fourth Judicial Circuit are women, she said.
The candidates were offered five minutes to speak about their campaigns and asked for an opinion on an election issue. Patricia Dodson, JWLA president, reminded the audience that judicial candidates are limited in what they can discuss.
“People are confused about how much they (candidates) can say,” said Dodson. “They can’t talk about things they potentially would address on the bench ... They cannot address partisan politics.”
Experience was the heavily-touted campaign claim for all four candidates, with endorsements a close second.