Democrat Carl Zimmerman challenges Florida Rep. Nehr for his House seat a third time

10/23/12 Janelle Irwin
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We continue our coverage of state House races. Republican State Representative Peter Nehr is running against Clearwater High School teacher Carl Zimmerman in District 65. Zimmerman, a Democrat, is using his experience as an educator to win over voters who are concerned about the state’s struggling public school system. Among his suggestions – simplify student testing.

“You give them for every course, a pre-test at the beginning of the year. Measure what they know – this is what they know. Then you teach to a prescribed curriculum and at the end of the year you give them a post-test which we commonly call a final exam and you actually give it at the end of the year. Currently, our end of course exams start in April and they disrupt the entire school year.”

The two candidates squared off at a Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon on October 16th. Zimmerman’s suggestion for monitoring student progress seemed simple enough. A member of the non-partisan political club asked why it isn’t being considered. Nehr said implementing changes is more complicated than it seems.

“You’ve got 120 people in the State House that have to agree on everything. You’ve got the Senate that has to agree on the exact same bill and then you have to gave the Governor agree and you also have to have the money to do some of these things and in times of certain budget crisis, it’s very difficult sometimes to get that done.”

Voters who don’t agree with many of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments are questioning incumbents responsible for the lengthy ballot this year. Tiger Bay member Darryl Paulson said the ballot could discourage voters from completing their ballots.

“Most of the voters won’t understand them because they’re too complicated and too long so what’s going to happen is one of two things: either people won’t vote on them which is typically what happens, or else they’re going to turn to the local newspaper, or they’re going to turn to friends and people they trust to see what they’re recommending to do on those amendments. But clearly most of those amendments are there for a reason and it’s primarily to stimulate the base votes and since the Republicans control the legislature, they’re hoping it will stimulate Republican turn out.”

Paulson asked both Nehr and Zimmerman, along with candidates for other House races, which amendments were their favorite and which ones they disliked. Zimmerman said he didn’t like any of them.

“These amendments remind me of the polished apple in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves where they look like they’re something really good, but if you bite into them, you’re dead.”

Another contentious ballot issue is the retention of three Florida Supreme Court Justices. Republicans in the state have been pushing to have them voted out. That would mean Governor Rick Scott would have the sole authority to replace them. Zimmerman said Republicans trying to unseat the judges are overreaching.

“We need to keep them separate and we need to bring these judges back, otherwise we’re going against everything this country stands for. We don’t take judges out because of a political reason. If you don’t like a judge for the way they voted, that’s fine, but there shouldn’t be a concerted effort to take them out for politics.”

Zimmerman’s opponent, Peter Nehr, is banking on his experience in Tallahassee to carry the election. Nehr sponsored a 2009 bill that later was signed into what’s called Rachel’s Law.

“There was a young lady in my district whose parents came to me and the young lady was up in Tallahassee and she had been caught taking some drugs and selling some drugs and what happened was, the police in Tallahassee forced her to be confidential informant and there’s no real regulations on how all that should work. What happened was, she was murdered by the people that she went out to get because there was no real regulations to do that. My bill set down written regulations. It was the first of its kind in the nation.”

Nehr opposes a law that allows Progress Energy to charge customers in advance for building a new nuclear power plant. It also means the power company doesn’t have to repay customers if the plant doesn’t get built.

“I really don’t think it’s right that we have to pay for something in advance that may never be built and if it’s never built, even though we paid in advance, that we don’t get our money back. That’s not right and I’ve always sponsored legislation to repeal that.”

Zimmerman has run against Nehr unsuccessfully twice. The general election is on November 6, early voting starts on October 27, but residents can request Vote by Mail ballots now.

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