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Orange Co. State Attorney’s race features 4 Democrats, independent

Democrat Bob Wesley earned another term as public defender.

Even though the only Republican candidate failed to qualify for the ballot Friday, the four Democrats running still will not be able to entirely decide the next State Attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit in the August Democratic primary.

An independent candidate who filed last week qualified for the ballot in the JC 9 State Attorney’s race, covering Orange and Osceola counties.

That means that the winner of the Democratic primary between Ryan Williams, Deborah Barra, Belvin Perry, and Monique Worrell will have to go on to the November general election to meet non-party candidate Jose Torroella.

Meanwhile Democrat Bob Wesley earned another term as public defender for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit because no opponents filed to run against him.

The JC 9 State Attorney’s race will be a contest to replace State Attorney Aramis Ayala, whose reform-minded policies and statements both have overhauled much of the office and its approach to criminal justice, and made it and her a touchstone of controversy. Ayala decided last spring she would not seek a second term.

Williams, of Winter Garden, in many ways is the opposition candidate, a former JC 9 assistant state attorney who quit and switched to Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit in 2017 in protest of Ayala’s policies.

Barra, of Orlando, is in many ways the inside candidate, chief assistant state attorney to Ayala and a longtime assistant state attorney, dating her tenure to Ayala’s two predecessors. Ayala has endorsed her.

Perry, of Orlando, is more of the establishment candidate, the former chief judge for the JC 9 Circuit Court, someone whose profile was national at the peak of his judicial career. He’s currently in private practice with the law firm of Morgan and Morgan.

Worrell, of Winter Garden, appears to be running to the left of Ayala, at least in terms of justice reform. She is a former assistant state attorney in JC 9 who is chief legal officer for the national criminal justice reform organization the REFORM Alliance.

Torreolla has a private practice in Orlando.

Out of the race is Republican lawyer Kevin Morenski of Orlando, who did not qualify for the ballot.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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