Betsy Benson, a longtime public defender, launched her campaign for Broward County Court Judge during a well-attended function at her offices in Coral Springs on Thursday evening, Oct. 8.

Benson, a lesbian, spoke of her trial experience and family background (her father practiced law for 53 years in Broward County) as reasons why she should be elected in August of 2016. Having worked more than 100 jury trials, Benson said she has handled some of Broward County’s toughest cases.

“I have practiced for 31 years. I have taught lawyers. I have worked in many different areas of the law and one of the things I have noticed in handling murder cases is that a lot of these problems could have been fixed if we had noticed in county court when the person was charged with a misdemeanor,” Benson told SFGN in an exclusive interview during her campaign kickoff. “If we had noticed when they were charged with lesser crimes that they had a drinking problem, a drug problem, mental health issues or an impulse control problem then we could have fixed it.”

Wilton Manors Commissioner Julie Carson introduced Benson to those gathered in Coral Springs, testifying to her colleague’s commitment to the LGBT community.

“Betsy has lived in Wilton Manors for a number of years and has been active in the LGBT community throughout her life,” Carson said. “She (Benson) has been both sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community when she practices law and has championed our rights in courtrooms for nearly 31 years.”

Carson said Benson’s ability to deal with extreme criminal elements of society was a sign of her strength and knowledge of the law.

“She (Benson) is charged with representing people who have often committed very, very serious crimes and the ability to provide counsel to people who are facing the death penalty or life in prison is difficult, but yet it is a true constitutional blessing because she is able to serve them and able to perhaps see the humanity in a lot of people that many of us may miss because we often judge people by their crimes as opposed to who they are,” Carson said.

Benson has a nine-year-old son, Bond. She is seeking the judgeship in group 13.

“She’s kind, she’s thoughtful and she’s intelligent,” Carson said.  “She’s a loving family woman who has struggled very hard to adopt as a single mother and to raise her son and make a difference in the world.”

Meanwhile, Oakland Park Commissioner Shari McCartney, a lesbian, has announced intentions to resign her commission seat. McCartney made the announcement at the commission’s Oct. 7 meeting, citing “family reasons.” Her decision sets up a special election to fill the post, tentatively scheduled for March of 2016. The Sun-Sentinel reports McCartney is expected to elaborate on her future plans at the Oct. 21 Oakland Park Commission meeting.