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Personal financial issues are campaign fodder as Peter Nehr and Carl Zimmermann face off again.

Peter Nehr and Carl Zimmermann have been here before.

Two years ago, they faced off to see who would represent northeast Pinellas County and a part of Pasco County in the state House of Representatives.

Nehr narrowly won and went on to a first term where he was named "2007 Legislator of the Year" by an assisted living facilities organization for his work with elderly citizens and assisted living facilities. He was also named the "2008 Champion of Business" by Associated Industries.

But Zimmermann, 57, points to Nehr's current financial problems as to why residents of District 48 should deny Nehr a second term.

"The man is morally bankrupt, personally bankrupt and professionally bankrupt," Zimmermann said. "He has a clear documented history of expecting other people to absorb his losses with the bankruptcy and banks having to sue him. The fact that he resorts to lies about me tells me that he's morally bankrupted."

In a written statement to the Times, Nehr, 56, said "tens of thousands of small businesses are being sued by banks due to late payments in this sluggish economy.

"I do not make excuses for my problems and take full responsibility for them. Just like many thousands of small business owners in Florida who are in a similar situation, I am currently working on repayment plans with the banks that will allow me to repay my debts.

"My business obligations are entirely separate from the public's money and will not hamper my ability to serve my constituents."

Zimmermann said his opponent's predicament has nothing to do with the "economy."

"It's his bad ability to take care of money," he said.

This year, three banks have sued Nehr for the repayment of loans dating back to 2001. He has entered into arrangements to repay the loans. Nehr's flag shop, which he has owned in Tarpon Springs for 17 years, is now for sale.

In the waning days of the campaign, both Nehr and Zimmermann have claimed that the mailers, television and radio spots being hurled at each other are untrue.

Zimmermann, a 25-year high school educator at Clearwater's Countryside High, took issue with a flier that claimed he was not involved in his neighborhood or with children and that he supports a state income tax. He said he has been president of his homeowners association and has been named teacher of the year six times.

"I've never, ever supported a state income tax," Zimmermann said. "Never."

Nehr, a former Tarpon Springs commissioner, dubbed a flier claiming that he would increase the price of toll roads as "desperate."

"This is a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts by Mr. Zimmermann," Nehr wrote in an e-mail. "I find it a bit hypocritical of him to accuse me of misrepresentation when he himself sent this mailer, approved by him and paid for by his campaign which has very misleading and false facts."

According the Supervisor of Elections Office, 49.5 percent of the district's eligible 91,931 voters turned out in 2006. At that time, 40,901 of the district's voters were Republican and 27,504 Democrats.

There was no party affiliation for 19,281 registered voters and 4,245 listed as others.

Nehr defeated Zimmermann by fewer than 1,500 votes in 2006 and has a sizable fundraising advantage this election cycle. According to the State Division of Elections, Nehr has raised more than $201,125 while Zimmermann has raised $86,000.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or


State 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 $30,366.

Peter Nehr, 56, is a Tarpon Springs small-business owner, having opened American Spirit Flag Shop in 1993. An immigrant from Austria, he was a Tarpon Springs commissioner before being elected to the Legislature.

A high school journalism teacher at Countryside High School since 1985, Carl Zimmermann is making his third bid for public office. Zimmermann, 57, was awarded the 2003 state journalism teacher of the year award. He also owns Z's Cars, a used car business.