When Rep. Jeff Brandes announced he would not be seeking another term in the Florida House of Representatives, Democrats knew they had an opportunity to pick up a seat in battleground-y Tampa Bay. But only if the right candidate decided to run for the seat.
It would appear Dudley is that right candidate. Photogenic, personable and smart, Dudley is, in my estimation, the best possible candidate the Democrats could have recruited for this seat.
Daphne Street sat down with Dudley for an interview. Here are five questions for Dwight Dudley…
Daphne Street: What are three top issues you intend to address in the House?
Dwight Dudley: Jobs are first. This links to education, and we need to do everything we possibly can to keep jobs first with accountability and safety. We need to do everything possible to support businesses, particularly small businesses. We need to assist them and help grow more. Small businesses are the big engine of our economy.
Next is education. We must instill or restore confidence in public education. This has been badly shaken with recent reports that 2/3 of kids don’t pass the FCAT on the first try. So then we shake the box or the etch-a-sketch and then nearly everyone passes. Obviously, we need a better instrument. Better than spending $254 million on a test that reportedly comes out of a testing company in Britain. We have smart people right here in Florida that could design a better test. I’m sure of it. And we need to get away from too many tests and let teachers teach. If we use a proper tool, this can happen.
Also, higher education—we need improvements here to give businesses they types of employees they need. Fortune 500s look for communities that offer great education, safe neighborhoods and great transportation, not interstates that can serve as parking lots. People need to be able to get around, not just sit stuck in traffic.
The third is protecting air, land and water—environmentally. Where water is concerned there are some questions about quality for sure. There are also questions about quantity. The recent rain brought to us by Debby might have put this issue on the back burner, but it’s a real concern. Do we have enough water for the population? This is critical when we start discussing growth for Florida. Growth is constrained by water resources. And, are we using our water wisely?
Renewable energy is very important. We need wider use of renewable energy in our energy goals. Florida is the “Sunshine State,” but New Jersey is ranked number one in its use of solar energy. New Jersey. Florida is ranked 14th. An absurd explanation I’ve heard for this is that Florida is too cloudy for solar. Solar energy is not black magic from MIT. It’s reliable, clean, and it’s available today.
We only have to look at the advances made here in the City of St. Petersburg for examples of using renewable energy. Garbage trucks are going to be using methane gas. A Net Zero office building is being constructed that will run its energy on 100% solar. Plans for even more solar and renewable energy sources are in the works. Plus, investing in renewable energy will create 10s of thousands of jobs, particularly in solar.
Jobs, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, and it will help our air. It will reduce greenhouse gasses; we will burn less oil and petroleum and reduce carbon emissions.
DS: How would you describe your leadership style and why is it effective?
DD: This is what I tell my children: the key in life is respect. Respect is important—there is a greater likelihood of success with respect, by establishing good working relationships. Florida has this black eye on our reputation now. We look like fools versus rational, intelligent leaders. We won’t go anywhere fast—Tallahassee keeps demonizing and villainizing one other for having different opinions. Being respectful is the answer for leadership.
DS: Why is your community and public service important to you?
DD: I love our community. My family moved us here when I was five. I missed the snow a little, but the Florida outdoors, boating camping—Florida affords us year round outdoor activities. Community service is needed from everyone—it’s the outward sign that you are dedicated to improving, in this case, what is an already great community. I love downtown St. Pete—the waterfront. I think it’s better than South Beach. It’s safe and prosperous.
Community service is important to keep a strong community. Whether it’s in coaching sports, being active in church, volunteering and engaging in politics, being involved is the lifeline for a community. You have to work to keep your community strong—you have to work harder to make your community better.
DS: What sets you apart from other candidates – why should we vote for you?
DD: My background is unique. I am one of nine kids from a working-class family, when we moved to St. Petersburg from Boston. My dad was a carpenter. When he came here, he began his own construction business as a general contractor. This is the American Dream. Beginning as a working class family, to business owner, I was able to go to college then law school. I became an attorney and worked as a public defender for eight years. I am dedicated to standing up for people’s rights
I was short and skinny, and as boys my dad taught me and five brothers to fight. I began boxing, took classes at the Police Athletic League and competed. I don’t recommend boxing to anyone. I got out before I got any head injuries, I think. But, boxing taught me to stand up for myself. Now, I have a private practice where I still stand up for others. I enjoy helping the underdog.
Powerful special interests are taking over government. I am willing to stand up and fight and not give in to special interests. To fight to not raise rates on goods and services that will most affect the middle and working class.
DS: What does your vision of the future look like—what change will you help to make if elected?
DD: My vision is a beautiful Florida. It’s clean, safe, well-employed with high tech and high paying jobs and opportunities for small businesses and essential trades. It’s one with a great education system. It is a vibrant community without massive traffic jams, guns are off of the streets—it’s safe. We can continue growth of all the things that are working well, prospering. People want a better life and prosperity, and I will work for that.