Obviously worried about a problem with Hispanic voters in the wake of a campaign meltdown involving his Hispanic fundraising chairman, Gov. Rick Scott is hitting back with a statement of support from prominent Republican Hispanics.
“Hispanics can appreciate the hard work Rick Scott has put into turning our economy around and leading the nation in job growth and economic recovery,” says the statement. “We are firmly committed to re-electing Governor Scott.”
The signers include U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami; three Hispanic state senators from Miami and Hialeah; 10 state House members, eight from the Miami area; and 10 other prominent Hispanic Republicans, most from South Florida.
The statement follows a week in which Miami health care billionaire Miguel “Mike” Fernandez resigned as finance co-chairman of Scott’s re-election campaign. In emails Fernandez wrote to members of Scott’s inner circle, published by the Miami Herald, he said the campaign was insensitive to Hispanics and had no effective Hispanic outreach.
Besides the statement, the Scott administration has taken other action that could be aimed at placating Hispanic voters.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, notified local elections supervisors last week he was cancelling a planned purge of state voter roles.
The purge ostensibly was aimed at removing non-citizens from the rolls. But advocates of the purge have never presented evidence there’s any large number of ineligible individuals being registered or voting, and past such purges have resulted in removing legitimate voters -- usually black or Hispanic -- from the rolls, angering the supervisors.
Democrats contend the purge is simply an attempt at voter suppression.
Scott has also announced he favors legislation to allow children of illegal immigrant families to pay in-state tuition at Florida universities under certain conditions.
Fernandez’s resignation from the Scott campaign was followed by the resignation of a Fernandez friend, Gonzalo Sanabria, from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, saying he was resigning in protest of the treatment of Fernandez. Scott campaign officials criticized Fernandez as disgruntled after he left.
Scott’s office shot back at Sanabria, saying he resigned only after he was told he wouldn’t be reappointed, and that Scott had planned to replace him because he voted for a toll increase.
Democrats gleefully exploited the turmoil and the allegations of insensitivity to Hispanics last week, focussing on a mention in the Fernandez emails that his partner had overheard campaign staffers talking in mocking, fake Spanish accents before an event at a Mexican restaurant.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the administration’s highest-ranking Hispanic, denied in a conference call with reporters that the fake-accent incident ever occurred and said Fernandez resigned to spend more time with his family and business. Scott’s camp didn’t dispute the authenticity of the Fernandez emails, however.