County Judge Race in Marion County, Florida: Mackey-Barnes vs. Thompson

Two months ago, attorneys Renee Thompson and LeAnn Mackey-Barnes were separated by less than 4,000 votes in a three-candidate race for county judge.

Now, these two top vote recipients are set for the Nov. 8 general election, when voters choose one to replace retired county judge Jim McCune, who steps down from the bench at the end of the year.

The race is non-partisan. The winner will serve a six-year term with an annual salary of $156,377.

County Judges Race:County Judge Seat 1: LeAnn Mackey-Barnes, Danielle B. Ruse, Renee Thompson

Primary election results:County Judge Lori Cotton is re-elected; Thompson and Mackey-Barnes head to November runoff

The verdict is in:Jury finds Ocala man guilty of manslaughter in 2018 death of 63-year-old resident

In the August primary, Thompson had 40.44% of the vote (28,037) to Mackey-Barnes’ 35.55% (24,645). Danielle Ruse had 24.01%, or 16,643 votes. As no candidate obtained 50% of the votes plus one, the first two passed in the general elections in November.

Since the Aug. 23 primary, Thompson and Mackey-Barnes have continued to fundraise for their respective campaigns.

According to the Elections Office Supervisor’s website, from Aug. 19 to Sept. 2, Thompson’s campaign brought in $850. Then, from September 3 to September 16, it brought in $2,750. Between September 17 and September 30, the campaign received $100. In-kind campaign contributions totaled $615.

Thompson’s contributions came from law firms, attorneys, a real estate agent, and an individual.

At the same time, for Mackey-Barnes, there was an expense of $4,972.10 and $1,000 was donated to the campaign. No in-kind contributions were reported.

All of Mackey-Barnes’ contributions came from private individuals.

LeeAnn Mackey-Barnes campaign poster

About Renee Thompson

Thompson, in an interview with a Star-Banner reporter, said she didn’t want to raise a set amount. She says more money should come into the campaign.

Thompson’s husband, Tommy, is a practicing judge. It would not be unusual for the two to sit on the bench in the same judicial circuit. Over the past 20 years there have been instances where a married couple has been selected to serve on the same circuit.

Renee Thompson

As the campaign winds down, Thompson said she’s been attending meet and greet sessions and various other forums.

“It was wonderful meeting people,” Thompson said.

Thompson said his campaign has been going since January and described it as a long stretch. She managed to campaign while maintaining a legal practice and being a mediator. She is a mediator at Upchurch, Watson, White & Max and owner of the Thompson Law Center.

The longtime lawyer’s message to those who come in contact with her is “how much I care about the community”.

She said she enjoys speaking with constituents, whom she found “engaged and excited.” The lawyer said the job would require a lawyer who has a civil background, and she has that experience, with more than 20 years working in the field.

Thompson said the judges hold “a position of public trust.” She said she would “follow the law, abide by the Constitution of Florida and the United States, and treat people fairly and with courtesy.”

About LeAnn Mackey-Barnes

Mackey-Barnes said she used the primary campaign surplus to spend on things needed in the future. She said she plans to raise more funds for the remaining time of the campaign.

Similar to Thompson, Mackey-Barnes said she would attend meet and greet sessions and other social activities to raise awareness of her campaign.

Deputy Public Defender LeAnn Mackey-Barnes

A longtime deputy public defender, Mackey-Barnes said one of the challenges she’s faced on the campaign trail is letting people know the race isn’t over.

“I tell people there’s a second round,” she said. “I’m continuing my momentum, because there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Mackey-Barnes said she was “trying to go to as many places as possible and meet as many people as possible while still working.”

At campaign stops, Mackey-Barnes said her message was to let people know about her work and community experience. She said she worked on both civil and criminal cases, was a supervisor, and practiced before every judge in Marion County.

“I am the only candidate approved by the North Central Florida Central Labor Council,” she said.

If elected, she says, she plans to meet with the current justices to see what is working and what areas need to be addressed. She said she wants to meet with staff from other entities, such as the Veterans Affairs Tribunal, to see what they need.

On the bench, Mackey-Barnes said, she will follow the law.

CANDIDATES

LeAnn Mackey-Barnes

Family: Married with children

Education: University of Florida Levin College of Law; Degree in Criminology and Sociology from UF.

Professional experience: Special education teacher; works in the Office of the Public Defender, where she has handled felony, misdemeanor and juvenile criminal cases. Currently, she is the chief attorney who operates what amounts to the second largest law firm in Marion County. Helped establish the Veterans Treatment Program, Mental Health Courts, and Community Legal Services for the Suppression of County Juveniles; helped educate law enforcement and hospital staff on the Baker Act and Marchman Act cases; former volunteer judge at Teen Court.

Public Service: board member of the Pace Center for Girls of Marion County; Kiwanis Club; pro bono attorney for Community Legal Services working on the Juvenile Expungement Program; Florida High School Athletic Association Appeals Committee Chairman; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; winner of the Richard Custureri Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award; Diamond Hearts Community Service Award; recognized by the Florida Supreme Court for community service.

Renee Thompson

Family: Married

Education: University of South Florida, BS, magna cum laude, honors program; UF College of Law, JD with honors.

Professional experience: Civil lawyer and mediator for more than 20 years; mediator at Upchurch, Watson, White & Max; owner of the Thompson Law Center; adjunct professor at UF College of Law, Technology and Practice Management; former partner at Mateer & Harbert PA; former associate attorney at Siboni, Hamer & Buchanan PA; List of Florida’s Super Lawyers since 2015; former Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star list since 2009.

Public Service: past president of the Marion County Bar Association; Leadership Ocala Marion Alumni, Class XXI; Marion High School Moot Court and trial team coach; Served for eight years on the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar and received four Presidential Merit Awards for bar service; inaugural president of the Florida Bar Leadership Academy; Florida Women Lawyers Association Leader in the law.

ELECTION DETAILS

  • Early voting: October 27 to November 5.
  • Deadline for requesting a postal vote: 5 p.m. October 29
  • Election day: November 8. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be received at the Elections Office by 7 p.m.
  • For more information, visit votemarion.gov.

Contact Austin L. Miller at [email protected] or @almillerosb

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