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Gary Dolgin hopes 3rd time is charm in Hillsborough Circuit Court judge race

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Let’s be frank — judicial elections generally aren’t very exciting. The “candidates” can’t really campaign, and they certainly, as a rule, don’t trash talk their opponents. By their nature, they work differently from any other type of election.

There are upsides, though. While endorsements may not mean much these days, voters seem more likely to reference the editorial page for endorsements when it comes to judicial elections.

That brings us to Gary Dolgin, who on paper brings a lot to the table. He’s running for Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge, Group 24, the seat now held by retiring Judge William Fuente.

Wednesday night the Chester Ferguson Law Center in downtown Tampa was filled with a swarm of well-wishers, who consumed hors d’oeuvres and chardonnay at Dolgin’s campaign debut event in downtown Tampa. Although lots of Democrats attended, a few Republicans were seen, including clerk of courts candidate Eric Seidel.

“I want to serve in the Family Law Division because I’m a board-certified expert in marital family law,” Dolgin told FloridaPolitics.com. “There’s only 25 of us in Tampa who have earned that distinction, and a lot of judges will tell you that’s where a lot of new judges get assigned. It’s not the most desirable place to be for a lot of judges, but that’s where I want to go, and that’s where I feel I can best serve the community.”

Dolgin has had an office in Tampa 23 years. He previously was a prosecutor in Manatee County and worked in the Hillsborough County Public Defenders office. He’s done criminal law in private practice as well.

It’s Dolgin’s third time running for judge. How does he campaign?

“You need to meet as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s a nonpartisan race and most people do not know who the judicial candidates are. We’re at the bottom of the ballot, but when you think about it, what other official that you’re voting literally makes life and death decisions every day?”

Dolgin says he’ll use campaign contributions for direct mail pieces, yard signs and possibly even billboards. He’ll also do a lot of walking from door to door.

The primary election for the Group 24 race takes place Aug. 30.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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