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Dwight Dudley draws two early GOP opponents in swing House district

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State Rep. Dwight Dudley survived a serious electoral scare in November from well-known local Republican Bill Young II, son of the late Pinellas U.S. Rep. “C.W.” Bill Young.

The two tangled over House District 68, in the heart of St. Petersburg, one of the most competitive seats in the state at any level.

Borrowing from the old Pinellas playbook of fiscal moderation so as not to scare off business concerns, combined with liberal social leanings and an emphasis on the environment — plus his own political savvy, effectively owning the important local issue of high energy bills and dissatisfaction with local public-private monopoly Duke/Progress Energy —  Dudley was able stave off a well-positioned Republican challenger in a mid-term cycle that was very kind to Republicans up and down the ballot.

Dudley emerged victorious by a 53-47 margin after a race that had both state parties watching closely, and dispatching resources, from Tallahassee.

But before there was Dudley vs. Young, there was Young vs. Black. That’s Joshua Black, a controversial African-American GOPer with Tea Party leanings best known for saying — apropos of allegations of misconduct on the part of Barack Obama following the death of an American by drone strikes overseas — that the president ought to be executed for treason.

“I’m past impeachment,” Black wrote on Twitter. “It’s time to arrest and hang him high.”

That rankled Dudley, who jumped on the remarks, saying they were “dangerous and unbecoming,” as well as many of his co-partisans.

“You aren’t seriously calling for the killing of Obama, are you? I know you are crazy but good heavens. U R an embarrassment,” tweeted fellow Republican Chris Latvala  who now represents adjoining District 67 — in a rebuke that now evokes his father state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s brief but stern talking-to directed at state Rep. Matt Gaetz for racially tinged comments about his Senate counterparts.

Black, a cab driver by trade, is back in the saddle again, as it were, ahead of 2016 elections. He filed for another candidacy back in February.

He was recently joined by former Pinellas Commission candidate Eugene F. Hendry, formerly a maintenance worker with the City of Pinellas Park.

Neither figures to give Dudley much of a run for his money, but just in case a candidate of Young’s stature jumps in the race, Dudley has raised some coin: as of April 30 his campaign account held $16,812 in contributions.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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