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In state House District 48, both candidates running on incumbent's record

Republican Rep. Peter Nehr is going to run on his record. Seeking a third term as the state House District 48 representative, Nehr said his record is where voters will find what they need to know about his commitment to the area's constituents.

"I'm not running against anyone," Nehr said. "I'm running for the office."

But Democratic challenger Tom McKone is doing the same thing. He's running on Nehr's record.

"I don't think he is adequately representing the district and as far as I can see, he hasn't gotten one piece of legislation passed that would help the district," McKone said.

McKone, 59, is chairman of the East Lake Fire District commission, where he has served for six years.

Nehr and McKone are trying to convince voters in the district that covers much of northern Pinellas County and a small piece of Pasco County that they are the best person for the job. Voters will decide Nov. 2.

Nehr said that during his tenure, he's helped hundreds of the district's residents cut through red tape to resolve problems. He said he's sponsored laws that help both businesses and individual voters. One law, named for Rachel Hoffman, a Safety Harbor police informant who was slain while working undercover, took effect last year.

The law requires that police departments train officers who recruit confidential informants. The informants also must be told that they can't be promised a reduced sentence in exchange for their work.

Nehr cosponsored the law with Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

"I'm an experienced person who knows how the process works," Nehr said. "In my opinion, this is not the time to send an inexperienced person to Tallahassee."

But McKone said Nehr has failed to get anything done on several issues that are important to local residents. He said residents of the East Lake community deserve an anti-annexation bill and residents in Palm Harbor should have the right to decide if they want to become a Pinellas County municipality.

"I will work to get it done," McKone said. "Nehr wasn't able to get it out of committee."

Both candidates believe that the economy, jobs and education are priorities in the district.

"We can't have workforce development without an excellent school system," McKone said "We can't attract great industry without an education system of excellence and for Pinellas County to have the lowest black male graduation rate in the country is tragic."

A study released last month by Schott Foundation for Public Education said that only 21 percent of Pinellas' black males earned regular diplomas in 2008 after four years of study. That rate was the lowest in the country.

Nehr agreed that low graduation rate was a concern but said that as a legislator, his job is to get the school system the funding it needs. The rest is up to the system.

"I do not micromanage the school district," Nehr said. "My job is to provide them with funding, not to manage their programs. The dropout prevention programs are the responsibility of the school district."

Last month, Nehr defeated primary challengers Marg Baker and Steven Mueller by garnering 56 percent of the vote. McKone had no primary challenger.

"I believe voters chose the person who is not too extreme," Nehr said. "I'm concerned that a certain amount of constituents voted for my opponent, but my job is not a popularity contest but to do what's in the best interest of people in the district and the state of Florida."

McKone says Nehr's win last month sends another message.

"It says that 44 percent of Republicans didn't vote for Peter in the primary," McKone said.

Nehr narrowly won his first two elections to the House, winning 51 percent of the vote both times.

McKone also questions Nehr's judgment. The recently divorced Nehr has a profile on the dating website match.com. At one point, Nehr displayed a photo of himself on the website standing in front of the state seal.

"Having the great seal of Florida in the background is unethical and using his office to try and pick up women is wrong," McKone said. "He can be Peter Nehr. I just don't think he should be Peter Nehr the state representative."

Nehr said he doesn't see what the concern is about his profile. He said once it was brought to his attention that there was some concern about his profile photo, he changed it.

"I'm a single man, and one out of five people meet on Internet dating programs," Nehr said. "I'm just an average person trying to meet new people. It (the profile) just says who I am and what I'm looking for."

Contract Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com or 727-445-4174.

Fast facts

House District 48

As of July, there are 91,304 registered voters in State House District 48. There are 39,021 Republicans, 28,165 Democrats, 19,361 voters with no party affiliation, and 4,757 others.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, 38,918 mail ballot requests were made in the district for last month's primary.

In state House District 48, both candidates running on incumbent's record 09/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 2:41pm]
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