Before resigning abruptly last week, Mike Fernandez, finance co-chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, had accused the governor’s campaign manager of “insulting” behavior.
But in a second private email, he also expressed concerns that “paranoia” in Scott’s staff was undermining the governor’s re-election bid.
Fernandez, a health care executive and prolific fundraiser, sent several emails in February to Melissa Sellers, who leads Scott’s reelection campaign, according to Politico reporter Alexander Burns.
In one message, reported in the Miami Herald, Fernandez was concerned over Scott staffers using “culturally insensitive” language, mocking Mexican accents in the presence of a Fernandez business associate.
The Scott campaign denies the incident occurred.
But in another, previously unreported email, Fernandez said the Scott campaign cut him off from the governor he has vowed to support. Fernandez added that Sellers would not let him take a copy of campaign survey questions, as well as mentioning a comment Fernandez wrote for the governor’s approval never reached his desk.
Fernandez was blunt in pointing out the re-election timetable was months behind schedule, singling out the chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth for isolating top Republican stakeholders from the Scott team.
Accusations from a deep-pocketed GOP sponsor only continue to paint a vivid picture of the sharp tensions within the staff surrounding one of most imperiled governors in the 2014 cycle.
Scott, himself a millionaire former health-care chief, spent more than $70 million of his own money in 2010 to win the Florida governorship.
However, in his re-election effort, he has lagged in the polls against former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, the ostensible Democratic nominee.
The second explosive email, reported by Politico, has Fernandez recalling several occasions where Sellers “sometimes in front of others … directly told me that ‘we need to be paranoid in the political world.’”
“Let me remind you of certain facts,” the increasingly exacerbated Fernandez wrote in the February 21 exchange. “I heavily invested in our state. I have committed a year to Florida. I am using resources to sell our story and to be told over and over directly or indirectly that someone in my position cannot be trusted because of your paranoia is unacceptable.”
Fernandez systematically panned the turmoil of the Scott campaign, bothered that by this point in the campaign, he has not been party to the governor’s primary objectives.
“The campaign execution of a rollout (based on financial statements) is two or three months behind schedule,” Fernandez added. “Based on the financial data I saw Monday, we are 90 percent behind plan. I can only attribute that to the lack of experience within the ‘inner circle’ that I am not a part of.”
“I will ask you to share this note with Rick again, but since I am not sure that it will be shared, I will copy Senator Thrasher and Adam,” Fernandez continued. “I know that I am not making friends within ‘the circle’ but I only operate with the understanding that I will do all I can to get our governor [reelected.] I owe my loyalty to him and only him.”
In conclusion, Fernandez noted that he was “looking forward to a lively and possibly animated discussion on these issues.”
Curt Anderson, one of the engineers of Scott’s 2014 campaign told Politico that Scott couldn’t be “held responsible for every bizarre email” from a donor. “Yes, we have a renegade donor making news, but that’s all this is.”
Anderson explicitly defended Sellers as an emerging political talent: “In a [business] dominated by men, Melissa Sellers is one of the most talented operatives there is. There is not one person that the Rick Scott campaign would trade her for.”