Both sides fire accusations in wake of Gonzalo Sanabria MDX resignation

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One can get dizzy keeping up with this.

Today saw a surge of back-and-forth exchanges between Gov. Rick Scott’s office and the Florida Democratic Party over the resignation of a high-profile GOP Hispanic political appointee.

Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board member Gonzalo Sanabria resigned today in protest over the treatment of former finance co-chair Mike Fernandez, who also resigned last week.

“The Hispanic Community of South Florida is a key component of this great State’s vibrant socio-political fabric and treating us as you have is a grave mistake as it pains me to tell you what you will find out to the chagrin of us loyal Republicans,” Sanabria wrote in his resignation email. “Good Luck Governor, I’m not a fan any longer.”

“I resigned today from that post sending my resignation effective immediately to Nelson Diaz, Dade GOP Chair, stating that I could not support the Governor,” Sanabria added.

Fernandez, a billionaire Cuban-American health care executive and major GOP donor, abruptly resigned last week.  Soon after, the Miami Herald reported on three personal emails sent by Hernandez prior to leaving, each raising concerns on the judgment of Scott’s campaign advisers, as well as the quality of ads, and the failures of Scott’s Hispanic outreach efforts.

He also complained about being “cut off” from the governor, and accused unnamed campaign aides of mimicking Mexican accents in front of a business associate.

One of Fernandez’s recommendations was for Scott to re-appoint Sanabria to the MDX board. Sanabria, a Jeb Bush appointee, had served under both GOP Govs. Charlie Crist and Bush.

As soon as the Miami Herald broke the news of Sanabria’s abrupt departure, Scott’s office struck back with revelations of their own.

Campaign Communications Director Frank Collins issued a statement essentially branding the former MDX board member a “liar” who misstated the reasons for his departure, hinting that the problem was actually in the “previous administration.”

“We called Mr. Sanabria just after 11 a.m. today to let him know that he would not be reappointed to the MDX Board due to his votes to raise toll fees on the people of Miami-Dade,” Collins said.

“Mr. Sanabria, an appointee of the previous administration, later sent an email upset about not being reappointed. Our administration is focused on lowering the cost of living for Florida families and the Governor’s new MDX appointee, Javier Vazquez, is committed to this goal.”

With lightning fast speed, Joshua Karp of the Florida Democratic Party issued response, saying Scott’s actions (especially the assertion that Sanabria was lying) amounted to another slap in the face for the Latino community:

“Yet again, it looks like Rick Scott is telling a prominent Hispanic Republican that he is lying,” Karp said. “The Rick Scott team’s arrogant and dismissive behavior this week is disrespectful to all Floridians — and shows how dysfunctional his campaign really is.”

Blaming political problems on a predecessor may be unseemly, but suggesting former supporters are liars — particularly those who are part of a voting bloc Scott desperately needs on his team for a Republican win in November — could be an indication of a tone-deaf campaign, or one riddled with chaos, or both.

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.