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Democrat to join District 48 race

Once a Republican, Carl Zimmermann says the GOP has become too conservative recently for his political comfort.

Published March 11, 2005

The race to fill outgoing Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis' seat in 2006 is now officially a stampede.

Carl Zimmermann, a broadcast journalism teacher at Countryside High School, said Monday he plans to run for District 48, which includes parts of Palm Harbor, East Lake, Oldsmar and Clearwater in Pinellas County and Trinity and Holiday in Pasco.

A Palm Harbor resident, Zimmermann, 54, is the fifth person to enter the race, but the first candidate to run as a Democrat.

Last month, former Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Provenzano said he also plans to enter the race along with Tarpon Springs City Commissioner Peter Nehr, Palm Harbor Fire Commissioner Ken Peluso and political newcomer Christopher Schlenker. So far, only Nehr, Schlenker and Peluso have filed their campaign paperwork with the state.

Zimmermann announced his candidacy Monday night during a meeting of the Greater Tarpon Springs Democratic Club. Once a diehard Republican, Zimmermann is no stranger to politics. In 1992, he made an unsuccessful run in the Republican primary for the District 48 seat against then-incumbent state Rep. R.Z. "Sandy" Safley. On Monday, Zimmermann said he switched parties recently because of the Republican Party's increasingly conservative politics.

"They've become the most radical and divisive group of politicians I've seen since the Civil War," Zimmermann said. "They're not happy with anything."

District 48 has been traditionally dominated by Republicans and that could make things difficult for Zimmermann. But he said he's philosophically opposed to the party's swing to the right and he's counting on other moderates who feel the same to bolster his chances at the polls in 2006.

"I think the easy thing to do is run as a Republican," Zimmermann said. "But it wouldn't be right."

He said he expects to draw heavily on his 20 years of teaching experience to help shape a key plank of his campaign platform - education reform.

A native New Yorker, former advertising representative and father of two college-aged children, Zimmermann has lived in the area with his wife, Terry, 52, for about two decades. In addition to teaching full time, he runs two small businesses, a video production company and a used car dealership on U.S. 19.

Staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Candace Rondeaux can be reached at 727 771-4307 or

[Last modified March 11, 2005, 01:24:19]

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