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Florida voters approve Amendment 13 which ends dog racing in the state by 2020. Florida Today

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A political battle between Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey and attorney Kevin Alvarez, her opponent in this year’s election, spilled over into the courtroom after he tried to force her from presiding over a civil case involving the state’s greyhound racing ban.

The owner of a St. Petersburg kennel sued the state last year after Florida voters approved , which bans dog racing by the end of the year. The civil case, brought against the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, was filed in Leon Circuit Court on Aug. 3 and landed on Dempsey’s desk a few days later.

Alvarez, who filed in 2018 to run against Dempsey in the 2020 judicial race, filed notice Feb. 10 that he would be representing plaintiffs in the dog racing case. On Feb. 21, he filed a motion asking Dempsey to recuse herself and have another judge assigned.

In his motion, Alvarez said Dempsey began giving him the cold shoulder after his campaign “educated the voters” on what he described as her record of reversals and a Florida Supreme Court reprimand a decade ago.

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He noted an encounter he had with Dempsey last month at the Tallahassee Leadership Prayer Breakfast, held at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

“The undersigned, attempting always to remain professional and pleasant, was at the coffee stand at the same time as Judge Dempsey and said good morning” to her, Alvarez wrote. “Judge Dempsey did not respond. The undersigned repeated the greeting, Judge Dempsey again did not respond, and continued to investigate the trash can at the end of the coffee table.”

Alvarez went on to say that he was aware of "hearsay" that Dempsey was “frustrated and upset” that he was making her record an issue in the campaign. “The encounter at the coffee table was circumstantial evidence of the truth of that hearsay information,” he said in his motion.

体育在线365He argued the state's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opined that judges “should be disqualified” in cases involving their political opponents. Alvarez also noted he was engaged “in a hotly contested election” against her.

体育在线365Dempsey, however, opted not to take her opponent’s advice. On Monday, she ruled against his motion, calling it “untimely and legally insufficient.”

Alvarez appealed her decision the same day to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which the appellate court denied the next day based on the merits, according to court records.

体育在线365So far in the campaign, Dempsey has raised more than $101,000 in contributions, while Alvarez has collected just over $41,000.

体育在线365Dempsey is the only incumbent circuit judge in the 2nd Judicial Circuit to have drawn a challenger this year. The only other contested judicial race so far is between County Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson and Stephen M. James, who filed earlier this month.

Contact Jeff Burlew at jburlew@jameswburdick.com or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.

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