Just days after black lawyers cried out against what they call an ongoing attack on minority judges in Broward County, another minority judge has been targeted: Circuit Judge Ken Gillespie.
Former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Oliver Parker filed election papers Tuesday to run against Gillespie, who had faced no challengers with candidate filings due by Friday.
Parker is a Republican whose decade as mayor ended in 2008. He made a failed bid for a state House seat in 2004, losing the election by 12 votes.
By running for Gillespie’s seat, Parker is playing right into complaints by members of minority bar organizations. The groups rallied in front of the Broward County Courthouse on Friday to oppose what they called the targeting of minority judges by Anglo candidates.
Gillespie, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist last year, is one of five black judges in a county with 90 judges.
But Parker said the race isn’t about race.
"I’m not targeting Gillespie because he’s a minority. I’m targeting Gillespie because he’s inexperienced. He shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place," Parker said. "To suggest that I should give him a pass because he’s a minority is the worst form of blatant racism. People should be judged by their qualifications."
Parker said his experience as a solo practitioner — trying civil, criminal, probate and traffic cases during his 32-year career — better prepares him to serve on the bench. Parker, who sits on the five-member board of the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District, said he would resign in preparation for the race.
Gillespie did not return calls for comment by deadline.