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Monroe County’s lead prosecutor and public defender will return to their posts after a qualifying period ended with no challengers. A county judge will also return to the bench having gone unopposed. 

Incumbents and challengers for state attorney, public defender and county court judge needed to qualify by submitting the necessary documents between April 22 and April 26. Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward, county Public Defender Robert Lockwood and County Judge James “Jimmy” Morgan III all were unopposed by the noon deadline on April 26. 

A Republican, Ward bested two challengers in the November 2016 election to serve a four-year term as state attorney for the 16th Judicial Circuit. He secured 50% of the vote to beat out Democratic incumbent Catherine Vogel and Libertarian Shad Neiss. Ward secured a second term in 2020, this time beating fellow Republican Mark Kohl in an August primary with 67% of the vote and Democrat Donald Barrett in the November election with 58.2% of the vote.

“It’s a very good feeling going unopposed in the 2024 election cycle,” Ward told Keys Weekly. “No fundraising, meet-and-greets or pounding signs into sheetrock. It’s also heartening to know that the voters of Monroe County have faith in the work that you do to keep them safe and our natural resources intact.”

Like Ward, Lockwood will return as Monroe County public defender for another four years. A Republican, Lockwood was first elected in November 2016, beating Democrat Trish Docherty with 55.4% of the vote. Lockwood went on to serve another four-year term in 2020 after he didn’t see a challenger. Lockwood said he’s humbled to receive such a vote of confidence from Monroe County. 

​​”Words cannot express my gratitude for the overwhelming support and trust everyone has placed in me by reelecting me unopposed,” Lockwood said following the qualifying period. “Most of all, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the dedicated employees of the Public Defender’s Office. Their unwavering commitment to justice and tireless advocacy for our clients is the backbone of our mission. Their hard work and passion inspires me every day, and I am honored to serve alongside such a dedicated team.”

Morgan was appointed county court judge in 2021 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The appointment was a true honor for Morgan, a graduate from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law who served eight-plus years with the U.S. Marine Corps as a prosecutor. Before he became a judge, Morgan was a public defender for the 16th Judicial Circuit. 

“I am honored by and extend my sincerest gratitude to my family, friends, staff and all of Monroe County for the support, trust and confidence,” Morgan told Keys Weekly. “I will continue to uphold the rule of law with integrity and ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice in the 16th Judicial Circuit.”

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.