Judicial candidates make their cases for being elected at League of Women Voters forum

Nine judicial candidates running for the Fifth Judicial Court of Appeals and various courts serving Marion and Sumter counties presented their cases for being elected Saturday afternoon.

Peter Webb, of the Village of Polo Ridge, and Kathy Hansen, of the League of Women Voters, meet with Judge Paul Militello, center, who is hoping to retain his seat as a Sumter County judge. Militello was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill a vacancy in 2016 when Judge Thomas Skidmore retired.

The judicial candidates spoke at a forum sponsored by The Villages/Tri-County Chapter of the League of Women Voters, which was held at the Wildwood Community Center. Their testimonies included a brief-yet-strong defense as to why their background and experiences uniquely qualify them to serve on the bench. Then they met with their constituents and answered questions on a one-on-one basis.

William “Bill” Ramputi, an attorney of 25 years, is running for Marion County Court Judge, Group 2. He feels the courts need to “change.” He said judges must begin to uphold their sacred obligation to honor the public’s trust in his county’s courts, adding that has the appropriate mix of temperament, ability, courteousness and respect required to serve.

Judicial candidate William Ramputi introduces himself to Helga Scharp, of the Village of Lynnhaven; Janice Papayani, of the Village of St. Charles; and Georgina Burt, of the Village of Bonnybrook; while his wife, Michelle, and League member Linda Carpenter look on.

Four Villagers in the audience said they came to the forum because they wanted to hear the candidates’ views about probation.

“We read in the Villages-News how some criminals get off time and time again,” said Kathy Villanti, of the Village of Pennecamp. “But we don’t know who these judges are and the reasons for their rulings. The system isn’t working.”

Her neighbor, Edward Keen, agreed.

“Which judges are repeatedly rewarding criminals?” Keen asked. “We realize that judges have a huge impact on society. Each one here today will want to move up the career ladder. Election time is the only time we can hold them accountable.”

Sandra Bagby, right, of the Village of St. James, poses a question to judicial candidate Edward Spaight.

“Today’s meet-and-greet is another opportunity for the League to educate residents about the election process and encourage them to participate by voting,” said League of Women Voters member Kathy Hansen, of the Village of Santo Domingo. “We also have been very encouraged by the public’s response to our new website, vote411.org, that has information about the primaries and all the candidates. Soon, we will update the site for the general election.”

Most judicial races appear on the primary ballot and then on a subsequent ballot in the general election only if no candidate receives a majority of votes during the primary.

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