Dwight Dudley not running in HD 68; here’s who will run to replace him…

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State Representative Dwight Dudley surprised Pinellas politicos today by announcing that he would not seek re-election to the Florida House.

Although Dudley is playing coy with the media about what he plans to do next, look for him to run for judge this election cycle.

Meanwhile, the roar you may have heard when Dudley made his announcement probably came from Duke Energy’s Florida headquarters in St. Petersburg.

House District 68 is the ultimate battleground legislative seat in Florida. It has changed hands more often during the last three decades than any other district in the state.

Congressional candidate Eric Lynn, way behind in the polls to fellow Democrat Charlie Crist, would do well to consider dropping his bid for CD 13 and running to replace Dudley. However, Lynn’s ego is probably too big to make this kind of smart decision. He’s convinced he can beat Crist, so don’t expect him to change races.

St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice would be the instant frontrunner if she wanted to take her show to Tallahassee, but she tells FloridaPolitcs.com she will not run for HD 68.

This makes lawyer and Democratic fundraiser Ben Diamond the Democrats’ best chance of holding on to the seat.

Update – 2:08 p.m. – Diamond has announced his candidacy with the backing of almost every major Democratic elected official in Pinellas County.

As for the Republicans, Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran must decide whether he wants to invest the $1 million-plus it would take to put this seat back in the GOP’s column. In an election cycle where campaign dollars are seemingly difficult to come by, Corcoran may pass on fighting for HD 68.

One crazy thought I had is that former state Rep. Frank Farkas may take another shot at returning the Legislature. He won the Lottery — literally — a few years ago, so maybe he can put his own money into the campaign.

I doubt Farkas will run, nor can I see Bill Young III running again for the seat he did not win in 2014.

The bottom line is that the well-regarded Diamond will likely be coronated by many of the Democrats he has worked hard to elect and will win in November over nominal Republican opposition.

Not every battleground can remain a war zone.

 

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.