Abby Cynamon Battles Bad Banker Ricardo Corona for Judge

The best race in next Tuesday's judicial elections is a whopper.

Like Corona, she's the child of immigrants — from Eastern Europe via Palestine. But there they diverge. Cynamon was born in New York in 1960, her parents divorced 10 years later, and then her mother died of breast cancer. After living in a Connecticut foster home, she earned scholarships to Barnard College and the University of Miami School of Law, and then spent 15 years researching legal decisions for circuit court judges.

Cynamon has loaned her campaign three times more than any other candidate and has raised as much as any other nonincumbent. She's been gathering contributions since early 2007 and has pulled in more than $69,000 from hundreds of donors, including dozens of lawyers and law firms such as Richard Baron & Associates, Mandel & Mandel, and Damian & Valori. (Corona also has plenty of lawyers among his $12,500 in donations, including Mark Kamilar and Bolivar C. Porta.)

Then there's the $300,000 in loans to Cynamon's campaign, which she says she can afford. Pumping in her own wealth — she lives in a $1 million home on Normandy Isle — is just part of running, she says. "How can I ask all these people to invest in my campaign if I'm not willing to make that investment myself?" she asks.

Abby Cynamon has a reason to smile: Her opponent is banned for life from banking.
Harvey Bilt
Abby Cynamon has a reason to smile: Her opponent is banned for life from banking.

Most of the money has gone to consultants and advertising. She recently paid for television ads touting her experience behind the scenes in circuit court and her lengthy list of endorsements.

Why would she spend so much in a quest for a $145,080-per-year job? "I think you make the most of the system you have," she says. "And I believe I'd make a real difference [on] the bench. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Tony Alfieri, director of the University of Miami School of Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service, is skeptical of such substantial money in races for judge. Lawyers will almost certainly expect something for their cash — even if Florida law explicitly makes such contributions legal and allows judges to oversee cases involving the same lawyers who donate. "The over-reliance on campaign finances is certainly troubling," Alfieri says. "One would hope that judicial campaigns would aim higher in ethics and integrity than ordinary political campaigns."

The good news for voters: It's no longer Corona dishing out loans.

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