Incumbent Steven Smith, with just over 16,000 votes cast Tuesday, is headed for an Aug. 21 runoff with challenger Cynthia Maisano in the Democratic race for Municipal Court Judge and Chief Magistrate in Columbus.
Smith led with 7,060 votes, or 43.21 percent, of the 16,338 votes cast in the race, according to vote totals of the city’s 27 precincts and the absentee votes tallied Tuesday evening by the Columbus Elections & Registration office.
He was trailed by Maisano, who garnered 4,920 votes, or just over 30 percent. Robert Wilson received 4,358 votes, or just under 27 percent.
“As I understand it, the only people who can vote three weeks from today are indeed the people who voted today,” said Smith, who expressed appreciation to his campaign staff and those who cast votes for him.
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“Your first challenge will be to get your supporters back out,” said the judge, who is bracing for an “intensive” effort to win re-election through the runoff. “I’m sure both candidates will be seeking to get as many voters as they can from whomever might end up in the third situation.”
There were no Republicans vying for the judgeship that handles small claims, initial criminal hearings and civil disputes in which plaintiffs and defendants often have no attorneys.
Smith, a staunch conservative formerly with the Republican Party, was appointed to the position by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue in August 2010, after his predecessor, Stephen Hyles, was tapped as U.S. Magistrate judge for the Columbus Division.
The judge’s race featured Smith, 59, whose career has included stints in a private law firm, deputy general counsel with supplemental insurer Aflac, and volunteer with Hillcrest Ministry Center of South Columbus.
Wilson, 60, has worked two decades as a private-practice attorney and as child advocate with the Juvenile Court in Muscogee County. He also has had stints as Associate Magistrate Judge, as well as interim Municipal Court Judge and Chief Magistrate during Hyles’ and Smith’s transition. He also was a Columbus firefighter and arson investigator before heading to law school.
Maisano, 45, is an attorney who practiced family law and criminal law. Her career has included work as a U.S. Army captain with the military’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps., public defender and judge with Recorder’s Court in Columbus, judge with the city’s Environmental Court, and substitute judge of Municipal Court.