Race between Dwight Dudley and Frank Farkas for House District 68 gets uglier

Published Oct. 26, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — In April 2001, "Clyde B." fatally stabbed his live-in girlfriend and dumped her bathrobe-clad body in Oldsmar. He is serving 40 years.

Voters in the St. Petersburg-based House District 68 learned about killer Clyde Brookes this week when the Republican Party of Florida plastered his mug shot on mailers attacking Democrat Dwight Dudley.

An earlier mailer is covered with mug shots and lists seven men and women convicted for murder, sex and drug offenses, robbery and exploiting the elderly.

What do they have to do with Dudley? They were his clients. He's a criminal defense attorney.

The battle between Republican Frank Farkas and Dudley is shaping up to be one of the nastiest legislative races in the Sunshine State.

On the campaign trail, Dudley touts his law practice as a small business. In response, the most recent Republican mailer tells voters: "You need to meet one of his customers. Clyde B. Second Degree Murder … Dwight Dudley wants us to believe he's fighting for us."

Dudley scoffed.

Farkas and the Republican Party, he said, have stooped to new lows by attacking his job.

"It's pretty disgusting and despicable to whip up fear in people," Dudley said. "It's garbage."

He further questioned how Farkas could be a lawmaker if he doesn't understand that the U.S. Constitution guarantees representation for criminals.

"Should we just summarily execute people?" he added. "Would that be a better system for him?"

Farkas, a chiropractor, countered that the mailer isn't saying criminals shouldn't be represented by lawyers. But voters also have a right to know how Dudley earns a living, he said.

"Why doesn't he tell everyone he's a criminal defense lawyer?" Farkas said. "He never says that in public. He's hiding something."

The Republican Party agreed.

"Dudley has made a career of protecting the rights of criminals, not their victims," spokesman Brian Burgess said.

Farkas also criticized a Tampa Bay Times editorial that endorsed Dudley but didn't mention that he's a criminal lawyer.

House District 68 is a moderate district that covers much of northeast St. Petersburg and eastern Pinellas Park.

Dudley is also throwing punches. He came out swinging at Farkas even before the August primary.

A recent mailer says gambling lobbyists "love to bet on Farkas" and even took him on a $48,000 junket when he served in the Florida House between 1998 and 2006.

The mailer calls Farkas "shameless" and "lobbyists' best friend."

A third candidate in the race, independent Matt Weidner, has not sent any mailers either touting himself or attacking his opponents.