There was no bench-clearing Tuesday night in Douglas County.
Voters overwhelmingly said 'yes' to letting District Court Judge Paula Martin stay on the bench four more years, despite an effort to oust her because of her sentencing record.
"I don't think Paula looked over her shoulder when making decisions before, and I don't think she will now," said attorney Dan Watkins, head of a committee formed to support the judge. "I think people clearly want an independent judiciary that is not afraid to make tough decisions."
Members of the anti-Martin group, who gathered at It's Brothers Bar & Grill, 1105 Mass., to watch election results, claimed victory even though they didn't succeed.
"We have educated the public about judicial retention votes," said Becca Booth, treasurer of the Justice for Children Committee. "It's not just a 'Yes' or 'No' question. It's about following what happens in courtrooms and acting accordingly."
Booth said the group had "put Martin on notice" and had four more years to gather information about her.
The campaign was the first time in county history a judge faced formal opposition heading into a retention election.
The controversy began earlier this year when Martin granted sentences of probation and community service to two men convicted of having sex with an intoxicated 13-year-old girl -- a crime classified as rape under state law. Sentencing guidelines say a rapist should face at least 13 years in prison, but the law also says a judge can give a lesser sentence if there are "substantial and compelling reasons."
Martin, who Watkins said was at home with her family Tuesday night, declined comment after the election, as she did throughout the campaign.
"I know the judge is gratified with the 'Yes' vote and is looking forward to being able to focus on doing her job for another term," he said.
The victim's mother said Tuesday that people had accused her of drawing out her daughter's trauma by being involved in the effort against Martin. That wasn't true, she said.
"She's been more than overwhelmed with the amount of support that has turned out of the committee," the mother said.
The Justice for Children Committee insisted the anti-Martin effort wasn't about one case, though the victim's mother was instrumental in organizing it.
The group listed 15 cases where it thought Martin had been too lenient and pointed out she'd been reversed eight times by higher courts.
But Watkins said it helped the judge's case that 16 jurors who heard the rape trials signed on to a list of supporters. Also, many of the cases cited by the judge's critics hinged as much on prosecutors' and victims' input as on Martin's.
"I think that once the voters were informed of all the facts, I felt the tide turned in favor of the judge," Watkins said.
By a much larger margin, voters also retained District Court Judges Michael Malone and Jack Murphy.
Douglas County judges aren't elected; rather, they're appointed and put on the ballot for retention every four years.