It's prosecutor vs. judge in race for State Attorney | News
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A prosecutor vs. a judge.
That's what the race for the State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit looks like. And this primary, every voter -- no matter how he is registered -- can cast a vote in this race because there are only Republican candidates running.
The 7th Judicial Circuit includes St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia Counties.
R.J. Larizza is the incumbent. He has served in law enforcement and has been a prosecutor. He went into private practice before being elected State Attorney in 2008.
"I'm extremely proud of the staff, from the top down," Larizza said.
He's up against Stasia Warren, a judge with 21 years of experience. She was an assistant state attorney and a defense attorney before that.
Speaking of the State Attorney's Office now, she said, "I want to bring back the morale of the office. It's very low."
Warren says while she was a judge, she saw what she called "a revolving door of justice," the same prisoners day in and day out.
"When they start knowing you on a first-name basis," Warren explained, "then you know we have a problem."
Larizza believes the office is doing well. "Let's look at some of the success stories," he said.
He mentioned his staff's cooperation with police on major operations such as "disintegrating" gangs in Daytona Beach and an internet crime sting in St. Johns County.
Larizza also touts his record.
"When I took over the State Attorney's Office, the conviction rate was 82%. That's below the state average. In four years' time, it's up to 89.8%. It's almost 4 points above the state average," he explained.
Warren believes the numbers don't tell the whole story. "He only tried 80 cases in the last year. So what happens to the thousands of other cases? They're plea bargained."
Larizza says his numbers do indeed include plea bargains and he says that's how the formula works.
However, Warren wants more cases going to trial.
"Because victims need to be heard," she stated. "Law enforcement is making good cases and they're being pled down so he can keep his numbers high."
Warren points to endorsements from various law enforcement associations.
Larizza said he has law enforcement support as well. "I think my opponent is attempting to mislead folks into thinking she has the support of all law enforcement in the circuit. That simply is not true."
No doubt, both candidates have experience in the courtroom, but this ruling will be determined in the voting booth.