With three-quarters of precincts reporting, Monique Barial was edging Janet Ahern in the runoff for a vacant seat on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court bench that will be dedicated to domestic law matters.

Barial, an attorney who served as minute clerk for Civil District Judge Chris Bruno before her run for the office, held 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Ahern.

The runoff is for a seat with no incumbent, left vacant after Judge Michael Begneris stepped down from the bench to run a failed campaign to unseat Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

It is being converted into a permanent domestic section, devoted to matters such as divorce, custody and child support.

The early returns were in line with the primary vote, where Barial took 39 percent to 34 percent for Ahern. The third candidate, Michelle Scott-Bennett, was knocked out with 26 percent.

A longtime family law attorney, Ahern, 53, had stressed her more than two decades practicing family law during her campaign, and she won the support of Landrieu and City Councilmembers Stacy Head, Susan Guidry and Jason Williams, along with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond.

But it was Barial, 43, who was scoring with voters in her first campaign for public office, During her campaign, Barial emphasized her work under Bruno, who handled the domestic docket during his first three years at the court. Barial also has represented plaintiffs and defendants as an attorney in family court. Her endorsement roster includes Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, City Councilman Jarred Brossett, Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell and others.

Unlike Ahern, who announced her intention to run for the judgeship in 2012, Barial didn’t begin campaigning until early August because she was an employee of the court.

Ahern began her career as a prosecutor and ran unsuccessfully for a Civil District Court judgeship in 2001. She also served as executive director of CourtWatch NOLA, a watchdog group that monitors activity in the criminal court.

Ahern had spent more than twice as much as Barial as of the last reporting period, in mid-November.

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