One of a series of stories about candidates and issues on the Nov. 2 ballot. Watch for the countdown series daily at naplesnews.com and in the Daily News.
FORT MYERS — Lee County judge candidate Miguel Fernandez has unleashed a blitz of TV ads that highlight his résumé and infer that his opponent, Frank Mann, Jr. is resting on the laurels of his family name.
“He has a Goliath of a name,” Fernandez said of Frank Mann Jr., son of Frank Mann Sr., a Lee County commissioner.
Mann dominated the August primary against three opponents with 48 percent of the vote — 2 percent shy of winning outright. He points out that a lost bid for circuit judge four years ago shows voters know he isn’t his father.
“I was named Frank Mann Jr. then and I lost,” he said. “I’ve lived here my entire life and my candidacy is based on a lifetime of commitment to Lee County.”
County judges preside over misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic court, small claims court and general civil matters. Both candidates insist their differences are what makes them ideal for the job.
Fernandez, who carried 24 percent of the primary vote, has 22 years of courtroom experience — two as an assistant state attorney and 20 in private practice. He said he can “hit the ground running” as a judge.
“The best training for a judge is to be in the courtroom every day, as I have been for the past 22 years,” Fernandez, 48, said.
Mann, 48, points to his 15 years of practicing family law and the past five years working as a mediator settling civil disputes. Working as an impartial mediator gives him the kind of experience that translates to being a judge, he said.
“The legal gymnastics that I have to go through are the same kind of mental processes a judge goes through,” Mann said.
Fernandez “relishes the role of the underdog” and said he sees Mann’s primary domination as a chance to grab “52 percent of the anti-Mann vote.”
He said the election rides on voters knowing there’s a judicial race in Lee County still to be decided and making sure people don’t gravitate toward familiar names on the ballot.
“If people turn a blind eye and go down the list looking for a familiar name, then we’re going to lose,” Fernandez said.
All Lee County voters may cast a ballot in the nonpartisan race. Fernandez has raised about $60,000 in campaign contributions; Mann has raised $84,000.
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