Co-endorsement for Volusia County Judge group 4: Dustin Havens and Chris Kelly

Dustin HavensChristopher KellyHeadline Surfer photos and videos by Sera Frederick / Dustin Havens, far left, and Christopher Kelly, are two of the five candidates in Tuesday's primary vying for Volusia County Judge, group 4.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Dustin Havens and Christopher Kelly are the cream of the crop in Tuesday's 5-way race for Volusia County Judge, group 4.

If this were the general election, we'd have to pick one of them. But with five altogether in the race and no incumbent, unless one candidates gets 50 percent, plus one vote, then the top two vote getters will move on to the general election in November. With that said, we are endorsing Havens and Kelly.

All five candidates are good attorneys, but Havens and Kelly, assistant state prosecutors have the acumen, experience and temperament to sit on the bench.

The other candidates are Alan Holt, Adam Warren and Steven Burk. Warren has raised the most money, $70,917, but the TV exposure means little in this race. Warren has name recognition through his late father, former State Attorney Dan Warren and with mother, Stasia Warren, the retired judge battling State Attorney R.J. Larizza in that race.

But for that matter, Kelly, too, has strong family name recognition. His father, Larry Kelly, was mayor of Daytona Beach for 19 years until 1993. Chris Kelly was second in campaign fundraising with $56,684 and Havens right behind him with $49,450. 

Warren was with the state attorney's office for a few years while Kelly and Havens have been prosecuting cases, 12 years and 10 years, respectively.

The experience Kelly and Havens have as prosecutors would prove invaluable on the bench where county court judges deal with misdemeanor criminal matters and civil litigation. Kelly not only has courtroom trial experience, he's also a supervising prosecutor. Havens has extensive experience in juvenile court and has an active felony docket that includes handling violent sexual predator cases at the Justice Center in Daytona Beach.

Kelly is currently managing assistant state attorney, overseeing 20 felony attorneys and 30 support staff. The attorneys under Kelly’s direction are assigned to various divisions in the State Attorney’s office. Cases include felony intake, general felony trial, drug unit, sex crimes, special prosecutions and more. Kelly assists the attorneys in case evaluation, trial strategy and problem solving.

Until last year, Havens was a supervising trial attorney in the juvenile division for eight years where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the division, managing an intense trial docket and supervising office staff. He was the State Attorney's Office representative on the Volusia County Regional Detention Center and Stewart Marchman boards of advisors.

Alan Holt was a no-show for our much-publicized July 21 debate at the Brannon Center in New Smyrna Beach, saying he didn't have enough notice it was taking place. Burk showed up in blue jeans and construction boots.

ENDORSEMENT for Volusia County Judge, group 4: Headline Surfer recommends the voters in the primary give strong consideration to either Dustin Havens or Christopher Kelly. We believe the voters can't go wrong with either one and with such a crowded field we anticipate a runoff of the top two vote-getters in the November elections. 

Headline Surfer videos by Sera Frederick / Headline Surfer held a day-long marathon of public candidate debates on July 21, at the Brannon Center in New Smyrna Beach for eight races, including video coverage here for Volusia County Judge, group 4.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet in Daytona Beach, Florida, via HeadlineSurfer.com. Specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with dozens of journalism-industry awards.

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