This is not necessarily a reflection of who I want to see representing me and the rest of my neighbors in House District 68. Nor is it necessarily a reflection of how I voted in this race.
No, this prediction is based on my gut reading of House District 68 (previously District 52) and my instincts for this district have been mostly right for the better part of two decades.
Anecdotally and in the polls, Dudley looks to be narrowly ahead of Farkas.
Anecdotally, I think of my neighbor near me on Crescent Lake who had a Jeff Brandes for State Senate sign in his front yard during the primary, but now has a Dwight Dudley sign there for the general. I think of the house on 22nd Avenue North that has both a Dudley sign and a “No Tax for Rails” (read: Tea Party) sign in the front yard.
In fact, just driving the circuitous streets of Shore Acres and Snell Isle and the rest of northeast St. Petersburg, I see so many more signs for Dudley than I do Farkas, although Farkas does have more signs in front of businesses along Fourth Street, Ninth Street, and other commercial corridors.
Meanwhile, the most recent polling shows Dudley leading Farkas by four points.
I think the problems I’m having with seeing a Farkas win are three-fold.
One, this district has become a trap for Republican candidates. Even though Farkas has won District 52 previously, the way the district is now drawn it either somewhat or strongly favors Democratic candidates. There is a reason why Jeff Brandes — and the brain trust behind him — did not want to run again for this seat.
Factor in the impact of the top of the ballot on this race and this district becomes very difficult for a Republican to win.
Second, Dudley has pwned Farkas on the issues during this campaign. Almost inexplicably, Dudley has been able to hang the “Farkas Fee” — the advance nuclear plant recovery law — around Farkas’ next. What an inventive line of attack! It’s certainly one I did not see becoming an issue in this race, yet it’s become so important the Tampa Bay Times cited it its recommendation of Dudley.
Third, and in my estimation, the most important, Frank Farkas has gone soft in this second-time-around. Ten years ago, Farkas was absolutely ruthless in his dispatching of Democrats Margo Fischer, Chris Eaton, and Liz McCallum.
But now, Farkas seems gun shy. There was a time when Farkas would have shot first and asked questions later. But now, not so much. It’s almost as if he’s afraid to be seen as the negative caricature he became at the end of his 2006 primary versus Kim Berfield.
Whatever the reasons, Farkas is likely trailing Dudley going into the last two weeks of the campaign. Yes, I would bet Dudley will win. Then again, you’d be foolish to bet against Frank Farkas.