Former Casey Anthony prosecutor wins Florida state attorney race

A former Florida trial lawyer who unsuccessfully prosecuted Casey Anthony for allegedly murdering her daughter will be a new state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties.

Jeff Ashton, who was elected Tuesday to replace his former boss Lawson Lamar, was part of the prosecution team Lamar appointed to handle the Anthony case last year. The then-25-year-old mother was acquitted last July of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in a case that drew national attention.

Ashton, 54, had a surprise guest at his victory party on Tuesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel – Anthony’s father, George, who arrived at the Winter Park party after the election was called for Ashton. The two had a brief exchange, in which George Anthony congratulated Ashton, and Ashton thanked Anthony, the newspaper reports.

George Anthony declined to give interviews inside the restaurant, telling reporters "this is all about Mr. Ashton."

Ashton, 54, has described his team's loss in the Anthony trial as Lamar's failure, one in a string of prosecutorial flops that have contributed to the office's 50 percent conviction rate.

"You judge a management system by how successful it is," said Ashton, who worked as a prosecutor for 30 years before retiring last summer shortly after Anthony's acquittal. "Citizens expect their prosecutors to choose their cases well and then do their best to win them. I don't think voters accept this idea that, 'Hey, winning doesn't really matter.'"

Lamar, who was first elected in 1988, had said he was proud of his record prior to losing the open primary Tuesday with 45.5 percent of the vote compared to Ashton’s 54.5 percent. The result likely means a major shake-up at the State Attorney's Office, which Lamar has headed for six consecutive terms, the Sentinel reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.