Leon County Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson, daughter of the late composer and musicologist Ashenafi Kebede, has been automatically reelected for the third term, after her lone opponent dropped out, saying the coronavirus crisis made it too difficult to proceed.
US media reported that Stephen M. James, a Tallahassee attorney who filed to run in February, notified the Supervisor of Elections Office on Friday — about an hour before qualifying ended — that he was exiting the race.
James would have had to collect 2,132 voter signatures or pay a USD 6,072 fee to qualify for the race and appear on the ballot. Ashenafi Richardson paid the fee.
Ashenafi Richardson’s husband, Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, congratulated her. “She wants to thank all of those who supported her in her short-lived campaign,” he said. “She looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Leon County and ensuring equal justice for all who enter her courtroom.”
County judges serve six-year terms and handle misdemeanor, small claims and traffic cases, among others. According to her online bio, Ashenafi Richardson — the first Ethiopian-American and African American judge in the United States — was first elected to the bench in 2008.
Last year, Nina who has been serving the Leon County Court system since 2008, is the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Judicial Service Award. She is the first Ethiopian-born person to serve as a judge in the United States, also was the first African-American elected president of the Tallahassee Women Lawyers and the Tallahassee Bar Association. She is immediate past-president of the William H. Stafford American Inn of Court.
Nina went to the US when she was very young. Her father, Ashenafi Kebede, a renowned composer and musicologist was the founding director of Saint Yared School of Music. Professor Ashenafi used to teach Ethnomusicology in the US and was director of the Center for African-American Culture at the Florida State University, where Nina earned her law degree. Ahenafi led Ethiopian Research Council, an Ethiopian-American academics and professionals, founded by Afro-American scholar Leo Hansberry.