Before resigning as fundraising co-chair for Gov. Rick Scott, Mike Fernandez sent an email complaining to top Scott advisers of the “homogeneous” group of campaign advisers seemingly unwilling to understand the culture of Hispanic voters required for the governor’s re-election.
Fernandez’s racially charged complaints in last month’s email seem to predict the abrupt resignation on Thursday as co-finance chair of Scott’s re-election bid, write Marc Caputo and Steve Bousquet in the Miami Herald.
Remaining a strong Scott fan, billionaire healthcare executive Fernandez hosted a $25,000-per-couple fundraiser Monday at his Coral Gables mansion featuring former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Fernandez’s comments leading up to his abrupt departure has developed into a major distraction for Scott’s campaign, giving weight to the Democrat’s claim that Scott — and Florida Republicans in general — cannot relate to Hispanic voters.
The most damning indictment brought up in the Fernandez’s February 20 email, which was reported in the Herald, is that two Scott staffers crudely imitated Mexican accents.
Although Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera responded by saying there was “no validity” to the Herald report, Republicans sympathetic to Fernandez released a copy of the email, revealing in broader terms Fernandez’s discomfort with the direction of Scott’s re-election campaign.
The email continues that he personally never heard the comments, but said a business partner named “Luis” did while on the way with staffers to Chipotle Grill, a Mexican fast food restaurant.
“It’s culturally insensitive for him to hear a senior staff members [sic] mimicking a Mexican accent on the way to Chipotle. It shows that the team does not understand the culture YOU need to win,” Fernandez wrote.
According to the Herald, Lopez-Cantera responded: “There’s no validity that we can find to any of those comments, or what was written. This is a diverse organization. We don’t tolerate inappropriate comments, and I don’t believe they even happened.”
Sen. John Thrasher, of Scott’s re-election campaign chair, acknowledges there is turmoil in the campaign, validating Fernandez’s frustration.
“You get high-powered people like Mike Fernandez who’s a CEO and used to being in charge,” Thrasher told the Herald. “But there can only be one person in charge and that’s the governor … Sometimes there’s frustration with that.”