Attorney Sara Alijewicz, who was forced to step down as a Palm Beach County magistrate to run for office, will be able to put on a black robe again after crushing two opponents on Tuesday to win a county judgeship.
In the other county judge contest, Assistant Palm Beach County Public Defender Ashley Zuckerman and civil attorney Allegra Fung were the top vote-getters in the five-person race and will face off on Nov. 6.
“I promise I will make everyone who elected me proud,” an emotional Alijewicz said when it became clear she had beaten attorneys Richard Llerena and Jeremy Zubkoff in the Group 5 election to replace retiring County Judge Nancy Perez. She amassed roughly the same number of votes as her two opponents combined.
Alijewicz, 56, who had been a county magistrate since 2010, watched the returns at her Wellington home with her family. She has been nominated several times to replace outgoing county and circuit judges but was never granted the governor’s appointment.
Given that there were five candidates in the Group 4 race to replace retired Judge Peter Evans, few expected it would be decided on Tuesday.
Zuckerman, 34, who has worked as an assistant public defender since 2010, is one of several assistant public defenders to seek the bench this year. While many judges on the county bench are former prosecutors, few are former defense attorneys.
Fung, 43, a West Palm Beach civil attorney, said she was not surprised by the results nor was she disappointed to come in second behind Zuckerman. “It was improbable for me to win 50 plus one,” said Fung, who would become the first Chinese-American judge in the state.
The upcoming campaign will be more focused, with Fung and Zuckerman taking on each other head-to-head. “It comes down to experience and which candidate can serve the county best,” she said. “Competition is good for the soul.”
The other three candidates in the race were: civil attorney Lloyd Comiter, Allen “Antonio” Ambrosino, 48, a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney and Broward County Assistant Public Defender Gabe Ermine, 42, who lives in Delray Beach.
County court judges preside over misdemeanor cases, which are punishable by less than a year in jail, or civil lawsuits, such as evictions, or where less than $15,000 is a stake. They would serve for six years and earn $151,822 annually.