Dolgin Injects Race Into Campaign for Judge – A Violation of Judicial Canons?

July 20, 2020

By: Chris Ingram

Tampa. Fla. – Gary Dolgin, one of the three men who are running for Florida’s 13th Circuit Court judicial race will be facing a judicial canon complaint filed with the state bar of Florida, according to the man who intends to file that complaint, Travis Horn.

Judicial canons are effectively the rules that govern judicial conduct and judicial races in Florida. Those rules are the reason why you never see ads or ubiquitous mail pieces from judicial candidates calling their opponents wife-beaters, bank robbers, or child molesters. The cannons limit what a candidate for judge can and cannot say in his or her campaign. Those limitations basically amount to stating qualifications and general claims about what a good guy, law and order candidate, family man, etc., that the candidate claims to be. Some say we should have such restrictions on all campaigns for public office, others say the canons are restrictive and don’t allow voters to get to know more about judicial candidates.

Regardless, the canons are very clear and according to Horn, who is himself a non-practicing lawyer, Dolgin’s recent mail piece featuring a quote from Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller reading, “Gary Dolgin knows that Black Lives Matter. He gets it!” is a violation of those cannons.  

Section7.3(a) of the canons reads, “a judge or a candidate for judicial office shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it, and shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.”

Horn says injecting the Black Lives Matter movement into a paid judicial campaign advertisement is a violation of that section, specifically as it relates to being swayed by public clamor.

Dolgin’s critics are not limited to Horn, who acknowledges he is a conservative Republican, opposed to Dolgin because he is a partisan Democrat and very liberal. Elvis Piggott, a candidate running for School Board in Hillsborough County, and who is Black, wrote a scathing post on his Facebook page after seeing the Dolgin mailer featuring Commissioner Miller sent to Black voters.

“I received this mailer today and I find this highly disrespectful and insulting to the Black Community. Why is it that white candidates and white candidates running for judge deem it necessary to use black faces to target the Black community?” Piggott’s post reads.

It went on to say, “Black Lives Matter is not a catchphrase to solicit votes. If he “gets it” where has he been? If he “gets it” what happened? Why hasn’t he been advocating and fighting for the injustice of African Americans? If he “gets it” when did he get it, when his name was placed on the ballot? I encourage you not to be bamboozled! Vote for Greg Green for Judge!”

Green is one of two men running for the same judicial seat Dolgin is seeking. Green is married to a Black woman, and no doubt, Piggott believes Green “gets it” as it relates to understanding issues facing the Black community.

As if Dolgin’s self-inflicted wounds within the Black community were not enough, he is simultaneously mailing a different mail piece to white voters. In that piece, an unidentified white man who is holding a nice sized Tarpon is pictured next to an unattributed quote which reads, “Gary Dolgin will stand up for The Constitution and won’t legislate from the bench.”  Underneath the photo are the words, “See our commercial on Fox News.”  Being a strict constitutionalist and not legislating from the bench are red meat issues for conservative Republican voters. Same voters also disproportionately watch Fox News. One need not be a political campaign consultant to safely assume there is no Dolgin ad running on Fox News featuring Les Miller.

Clearly, Gary Dolgin is trying to have his Black bonafides and claim his conservative credentials too. My bet is, voters will see through this farce, and Gary Dolgin will lose his fifth race for a seat on the judicial bench.

Chris Ingram is a Tampa communications, political, and media consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @IrreverentView or send him an e-mail to chris@tampafp.com

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