Clay County Judge, Group 1

Three candidates are seeking the votes for Clay County Judge, Group 1.

News4Jax sent a questionnaire to each candidate asking about their background and their views on several issues. Scroll down to read the responses of those seeking your vote -- in their own words.

Note: Responses are sorted alphabetically by party and are presented exactly as submitted, with no editing by News4Jax staff.

  CANDIDATES

Tonya Barge

Occupation: Attorney

Age: 36

Your family: Husband, Joshua Barge, children Laila (10) and Logan (5)

Education: Juris Doctorate

Political experience: (No response)

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  • The top three issues I will likely face while holding office is case management, clearing the COVID backlog, and managing pro se (self represented) litigants.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

As a career prosecutor, my entire legal career has been devoted to the rule of law, safety of the community, and justice. I am the only prosecutor in this race and the only candidate that has spent the last 19 years serving others in both a professional and personal capacity.

My commitment to the safety and welfare of this community is evident by the almost 10 years I have devoted in public service as a career prosecutor. I have extensive trial experience, having litigated both complex homicides and sexually motivated offenses and misdemeanor crimes.

My courtroom experience is unmatched and will serve me well in handling the amount of trials and volume of cases a County Court Judge is responsible for.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • After serving as a judge, I hope to be remembered as fair, professional, consistent, ethical, and as a judge who always followed the law.

Campaign website: tonyabarge.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): facebook.com/TonyaBarge


Ray Forbess

Occupation: Attorney

Age: 38

Your family: Wife, Sarah, Six year old son Beau

Education: University of North Florida- Accounting: Florida Coastal School of Law- Juris Doctorate

Political experience: No Previous Offices Sought

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  • The top three issues I will face is to ensure that everyone has access to the court system, has their voices herd, and has a balanced and fair approach to the justice system. This includes both sides of every case.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • As a long time prosecutor and defense attorney in the Clay County court system, I have a unique understanding and perspective of all the legal issues that come to the judicial bench. I have had a much more varied and intense experience than either of my two opponents. I have not only tried more cases than either of y two challengers, I have tried more cases in Clay County. I have litigated cases before Clay County Judges Wilkes, Collins, Townsend, Lester, Whittington, Crenshaw, Skinner, and Sharrit. I was recognized for my efforts as a prosecutor by being awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from Sheriff Rick Beseler and also awarded the distinction as Homicide Prosecutor of the year from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Those awards, along with other efforts and experience, show that I’ve been tested and proven that I was not simply employed as a prosecutor, but went far and above to serve my fellow citizens.

Addiction is a large scale issue in our County. I worked hand in hand with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Organized Crime Unit and prosecuted drug offenses to include methamphetamine labs and pill mills. For a year and a half I was also assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Task Force. I have worked as a defense attorney for drug addicted individuals and their families. This is something neither of my opponents have done. Having been on both sides of the addictions battle, I understand fully the difference between an addicted individual and those who wreak havoc on our community by pushing illegal narcotics. So I have the matchless experience to comprehend all sides of this very serious issue in Clay County.

My experiences in life working in small family owned businesses since the age of fifteen as well as having equal experience as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, have provided me with a distinctive balance to handle all cases. Having experience on both sides of the table is critical to ensure justice is being served to both people charged with a crime, the victim of a crime, business owners, or any other person seeking justice.

Finally, one of my opponents has done little actual courtroom trials through to a jury verdict. The other has done little in actually defending someone accused of a crime. Experienced on both sides of Criminal Law as an Assistant State Attorney and Private Defense Council, plus substantial courtroom experience with thousands of cases and trial litigation in County & Circuit Court, my legal credentials are balanced with both public service and private practice.

To ensure the citizens of Clay County that I am in fact the right candidate for the job, my credentials, character and ethics were thoughtfully examined by trusted community leaders. It is a unique privilege to have earned the trust and endorsements of our Public Safety Professionals, including Sheriff MichelleCook, the Clay County Fraternal Order of Police, and the Firefighter associations of both Clay County and the State of Florida. Additionally, I have been endorsed by well-respected County Commissioner, Mike Cella (Fleming Island) who I regard with great admiration. Clay County is my home and I would be honored to serve the people with whom I live amongst, worship with and enjoy all the benefits that we have strived to create. I believe that upholding the Constitution and all Amendments, without legislating from the bench, is the most sacred responsibility of a Judge. Due process is the bedrock of justice system and every person is entitled to the right of due process.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • I hope to be remembered by individuals who, even though they did not receive the result they wanted, felt their voice was heard, the law was followed, and they had a fair and impartial day in court.

Campaign website: forbessforjudge.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): facebook.com/RayForbessforJudge


Geraldine Hartin

Occupation: Attorney

Age: 43

Your family: Married, 3 children

Education: Clay High School, University of North Florida, Florida Coastal School of Law

Political experience: None

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  • Making sure that cases are handled in a timely manner, as justice delayed is justice denied; ensuring that all parties are heard, treated fairly and held to the law; ensuring access to the courts.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

In County Court, the Judges preside over Misdemeanors, Juvenile Cases, Traffic and Small Claims. The diversity of my practice areas, including civil litigation, real estate, probate, estate planning, family law, appeals and my experience as a Special Magistrate, Volunteer Judge for Teen Court, and General Counsel for the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, proves that I have a wide range of knowledge and am able to handle all cases that may come before me.

County Court is the People’s Court. Clay County is my home. I have practiced my entire career (almost 17 years) in Clay County, my husband and children were born and raised here and I have lived the majority of my life here. I do not take this county for granted and believe that service to the people of this county is the highest calling. I understand those who may appear before me and have the tempered judgment, empathy and experience to ensure a just and equitable result.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • I hope that Clay County remembers me as being a Judge that upholds the law, is consistent, ensures that people are heard and treated with respect and that justice is done.

Campaign website: votehartin.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): facebook.com/VoteHartin