John Dingfelder is running to be a judge



Over the past decade, John Dingfelder has been a regular figure in Tampa politics as a member of the City Council. Even after his electoral career was sidelined by losing to Sandy Murman in a bruising Hillsborough County Commission race in 2010, he resurfaced back in 2012, appearing frequently before his former colleagues on the City Council as he fought for the rights of the protesters who would be descending upon the Cigar City during the Republican National Convention.

As we all know well, in the end there weren't many confrontations between police and protesters at all, in large part because the mass demonstrations didn't really eventuate during the GOP confab that nominated Mitt Romney. Dingfelder has been largely out of the public eye since then, working under Julianne Holt in the Hillsborough County's Public Defenders Office.

But he'll be back before the voters this fall, as he runs for judge in Hillsborough County's Circuit Court 13 Group 8 contest, facing off against Carl C. Hinson and Barbara Twine Thomas.

The job of a Tampa City Councilperson often involves choosing sides during zoning hearings, which Dingfelder says has prepared him well for serving as a judge.

"It's a lot like being on the bench," he says. "You listen to the evidence in front of you. You listen to all sides. You have to follow a certain procedure, certain laws that are on the books, and then you make a decision based on all of that and try to be as fair as possible."

Before serving on the council, the longtime attorney served on the city's Variance Review Board, which, like the council, was a quasi-judicial board that also had to rule on land-use issues.

If elected, though, he will be a full-bore judicial figure.

Of course, running to be a judge is a far different animal than running for any other elected office. Candidates can't run on any issues, per se. It's where something like name recognition can be a huge factor.

But Dingfelder has never won office countywide. Part of the District 3 County Commission seat he ran for in 2010 encompassed his home area of South Tampa, but this time he's running in one of the largest counties in the state.

"It’s extremely important that I get out to the rest of the county, to places where they may not know me at all, so we’re going to be working very hard out in Plant City, Sun City, Lutz, Town 'N' Country, to get a chance to meet those folks," he says, adding that his father was born in Plant City.

One of the two other announced candidates, Carl Hinson, may be formidable in his own right in August. His list of bipartisan endorsements includes Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez , Tampa Firefighters Local 754 and the Tampa and West Central Florida branches of the Police Benevolent Association.

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