The race to replace Susan Latvala on the Pinellas County Commission is a wide-open affair with seven Republicans vying to win her District 4 seat.
Recent polling indicates the race will go down to the wire, so it’s difficult to predict who will win. But if you ask state Senator Jack Latvala, the de facto boss of north Pinellas politics, who he does not want to see succeed his ex-wife, the answer is clear: Peter Nehr.
In an open letter to District 4 voters, Latvala writes that he is taking the “fairly unprecedented step of saying who I DO NOT RECOMMEND.”
Explaining that he is concerned that Nehr may be the front-runner in the race, Latvala says he believes Nehr’s “record is not deserving of support for elective office in Pinellas County.”
A former Tarpon Springs city commissioner, Nehr served six years in the state House, from 2006 to 2012. He was defeated in his bid to win a fourth term as representative for House District 65 House term in November by Democrat Carl Zimmermann.
It’s really not Nehr’s political record that concerns Latvala.
“Peter has a long record of what I consider to be personal financial and ethical lapses,” writes Latvala. “I believe elected officials should hold themselves to a high standard, which most of our Pinellas County elected officials of both parties continue to do. In my heart, I believe Peter Nehr misses that mark.”
Nehr had previously withdrawn from the race for District 4 but re-entered the race after Susan Latvala said she would not run again.
Nehr’s withdrawal from the race last year came a couple of months after a media report that he spent almost $22,000 in campaign contributions to pay his then live-in girlfriend, Kim Marie, for consulting work on his campaign following his defeat to Zimmerman.
Asked for a response to Latvala’s letter, the exceedingly polite Nehr emailed, “Jack Latvala has the right as a citizen to express his opinion. I do not agree with his point of view and believe I am the best conservative Republican candidate in this race.”
Continued Nehr, “It is my hope that the citizens of Pinellas County will see through this attempt to smear my name… Perhaps Mr.Latvala has forgotten that we have both received the Defender of Liberty Award for our conservative votes while in Tallahassee. No other candidate in this race can claim this distinction.”
Here is the full text of Latvala’s open letter:
An open letter to my friends and neighbors,
For the past 35 years I have lived and worked in Pinellas County, most of that time in Dunedin and Palm Harbor. I care deeply about my county and the kind of leadership we have at every level of government. That is why I am very concerned about the race to succeed Susan Latvala on the Pinellas County Commission, District 4.
There are several fine candidates in that race, most of whom I count as friends. For that reason I have resisted getting behind one particular candidate. Susan and many of my friends are supporting Johnny Johnson, who I have recently met and believe is a competent and ethical man.
I have worked personally with Dave Eggers and Jim Ronecker, when they served as Mayors of their communities. Both of these men are fine public servants who would serve us well on our County Commission. Macho Liberti is a new face and as a firefighter, has been a fine public servant.
I believe residents of District 4 would be well served by any of these four men.
But rather than picking one of them, I am instead taking the fairly unprecedented step today of saying who I DO NOT RECOMMEND for this seat.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND former Representative Peter Nehr. I served with Peter in Tallahassee and have observed his political career from the beginning. I believe his record is not deserving of support for elective office in Pinellas County. Peter has a long record of what I consider to be personal financial and ethical lapses. I believe elected officials should hold themselves to a high standard, which most of our Pinellas County elected officials of both parties continue to do. In my heart, I believe Peter Nehr misses that mark.
I am concerned by polling that has been brought to my attention that shows Peter Nehr to be the leader in this race. I hope that those who have followed my career and know of my commitment to do what is best for this county will understand and appreciate the need for this unusual step I am taking today.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at my business office, 727-545-9566.
Thank you for the confidence you have shown in me for the last 20 years, and the honor of continuing to represent you. I have tried to never let you down and will continue to do that.
Here is the full text of Nehr’s response:
Jack Latvala has the right as a citizen to express his opinion. I do not agree with his point of view and believe I am the best conservative Republican candidate in this race. Of the 3 leading candidates I am the only one who believes that raising our sales tax by 14% in Pinellas County is the wrong thing to endorse. This is a $100,000,000. Additional tax burden on the already overtaxed citizens of Pinellas County. Both Johnny Johnson and Dave Eggars believe raising taxes is in the best interest of Pinellas citizens. They both publicly endorse the idea of this major tax increase. It is my hope that the citizens of Pinellas County will see through this attempt to smear my name and continue to vote for a true conservative Republican on Tuesday August 26. Perhaps Mr.Latvala has forgotten that we have both received the Defender of Liberty Award for our conservative votes while in Tallahassee. No other candidate in this race can claim this distinction. Sincerely, Peter Nehr Candidate for Pinellas County vommission.