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The state Senate races // DISTRICT 23: John Dicks

Democrat John Dicks, whose family dates back generations in the Plant City area, is seeking the state Senate seat that was occupied for 16 years by retiring Republican Malcolm Beard.

Tom Lee, a home builder from Brandon, is Dicks' opponent. A Republican, the 32-year-old Lee has lived in Hillsborough County since 1969.

A large portion of District 23 is in eastern Hillsborough County and encompasses Brandon, Plant City, Sun City and Temple Terrace. It also includes part of Polk County, taking in some of Lakeland and Mulberry. This is a new configuration, which Dicks believes will work to his advantage as a Democrat with strong family ties in both counties.

To win in this district, a candidate must be conservative. But that does not mean he cannot be open-minded about issues that represent deeply held convictions on the part of voters. Dicks, 43, a financial adviser and attorney, is the more thoughtful and temperate of the two candidates and the best choice for voters.

For example, Dicks personally opposes abortion but believes a woman should have the right to choose. He and his wife Sharon have worked in a crisis pregnancy center, and he says adoption laws need to be reformed.

Dicks, who is vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for Hillsborough Community College, says alternative schools and even boot camps should be available for students who cannot succeed in traditional settings. Perhaps Dicks' most intriguing idea is to require prisoners who have not completed high school to get equivalency diplomas as a condition for parole.

These are ideas the voters in District 23 should consider. The Times recommends Dicks for state Senate.

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