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Politics

No mud being slung in this race

The candidates for state House District 48 have focused on talking about their stands on the issues.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published November 3, 2006


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Campaigns tend to take an especially nasty turn the week before an election, but not so in House District 48.

The candidates aren't calling each other liars. Groups with deceptively innocent sounding names aren't funding attack ads. And no one is crashing someone else's campaign event.

Political insiders don't agree on why, but Republican Peter Nehr and Democrat Carl Zimmermann are running a campaign about the issues, not about each other.

Even the candidates said it's a refreshing change that stemmed from an early agreement to run a clean race.

"I really believe that my ideas and what I have to offer are more important than attacking my opponent," said Zimmermann, a high school teacher.

Voters are tired of negative campaigns, said Nehr, a small business owner and Tarpon Springs city commissioner. He said he does not intend to go negative.

"People have called me and said, 'I have this information, do you want to use it?' I said I don't want to even know the information if it doesn't deal with the issues," Nehr said.

Going positive is good politics in the current climate, said politically active Clearwater attorney Ed Armstrong.

"Neither Mr. Nehr nor Mr. Zimmermann have launched the missiles first, so it's been an issue driven discussion," Armstong said.

Staying positive is a reflection of the candidates' personal philosophies, said Armstrong, who considers the race competitive.

But Darryl Paulson, a professor of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said the race has remained positive because it isn't close at all.

Going negative is "a waste of resources," Paulson said.

"In this case, I don't see the negativity because neither party is going to invest the money in a race in which they think the outcome is obvious," said Paulson, who lives in the district.

District 48 is Republican territory, Paulson said. Nehr, a sitting city commissioner who survived a competitive primary election, has had a lot of exposure. Paulson said he doesn't think Zimmermann can win.

The more competitive a race the greater chance the campaign will turn negative, he said.

Which explains the acrimony in the races for Senate District 16 between Democrat Charlie Justice and Republican Kim Berfield and for House District 52 between Democrat Bill Heller and Republican Angelo Cappelli.

"The stakes are so high and both sides think they have an opportunity to win those districts," Paulson said.

Voters say they don't like negative ads, Paulson said, but they remember them. So candidates will continue to use them.

Zimmermann and Nehr said they'll stick to the issues.

"We both have the issues of the citizens at heart," Nehr said. "But we both have different ways of getting there."

Zimmermann, a former Republican, said he can bridge the partisan divide.

"I don't want to attack my opponent or Republicans," Zimmermann said. "I just want to solve the problems."

 

THE CANDIDATES

Republican

Peter F. Nehr, 54, owns the American Spirit Flag Shop in Tarpon Springs, which opened in 1993. He is in his second term as a Tarpon Springs city commissioner. Nehr, an immigrant from Austria, is a member of the Tarpon Springs Rotary Club and served as president of the Kiwanis Club in New Port Richey. After two of his sons said they didn't want to go to college because he hadn't, Nehr went back to school, even taking some classes with one son. In 2000, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in political science. Nehr is married and has three sons. Assets: Home, business, stocks. Liabilities: Mortgage, car loans. Sources of income: Business, city commissioner's salary. Web site: www.votepeternehr.com.

Democrat

Carl Zimmermann, 55, has been a teacher at Countryside High School since 1985. He has several teacher of the year awards including 2003 state journalism teacher of the awarded by the Florida Scholastic Press Association. Before that, Zimmermann worked in advertising. Zimmermann has never held public office but ran for the same seat he's running for now as a Republican in 1992. He lost in the primary and switched parties three years ago. Zimmermann owns a used-car business on U.S. 19 called Z's Cars and does freelance video production. He is married and has a son and a daughter. Assets: Home, businesses. Liabilities: Mortgage, credit cards. Sources of income: Teacher's salary, car and video business. Web site: www.zimmermann2006.com.

 
The job

House District 48

District 48 covers parts of Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, East Lake, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Clearwater in northern Pinellas County and part of Holiday in Pasco County. State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $30,996 per year.

[Last modified November 3, 2006, 07:18:05]


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