Dwight Dudley among qualified judicial candidates in Pinellas

People were a little shocked last week when State Rep. Dwight Dudley announced he'll be leaving his House District 68 seat at the end of his current term.

The St. Petersburg Democrat didn't take long, though, to embark on his next endeavor: running to be a judge.

As of Friday, according to a media release the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections sent out, Dudley is among the nine candidates who qualified to run for judge in various divisions. He's also one of two qualifying for Group 9 in Florida's 6th Judicial Circuit, meaning he'll face opponent Myriam Irizarry on the August 30 primary ballot.

Irizarry was appointed to the judgeship last year by Governor Rick Scott to fill the vacancy left in the wake of Judge Walt Fullerton's retirement.

A criminal lawyer by trade, Dudley is known for being outspoken in the legislature on issues like the environment and healthcare, but his impassioned yet reality-rooted pleas often fell on deaf ears in the staunchly conservative Florida House of Representatives. 

But all that travel up to Tallahassee just to shout at a wall for a whopping $30,000 a year or so can wear on a person like Dudley, a married father with with college-aged kids.

Campaigning for a judgeship is going to be quite a change for Dudley.

After all, many of the practices partisan campaigns use are strictly verboten. People who run for judge cannot directly express for money, nor can they bring party politics into their campaigns.

Dudley's aware of these differences, which is why he said he's not going to endorse in any race, including the Democratic primary to replace him.

That race currently consists of Ben Diamond, who has long been involved in local Democratic Party politics. He jumped in shortly after Dudley announced his decision to leave the legislature. 

His competition in the primary is Eric Lynn, a former Pentagon official who, until this week, had been running in the Democratic primary race for Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District seat, where he faced an impossibly steep uphill climb against former Governor Charlie Crist.

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