Another resignation rocks Rick Scott campaign

sbustos@MiamiHerald.comMarch 27, 2014 

Gonzalo Sanabria, a longtime Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board member, announced Thursday he was resigning from his appointed post to protest the “disparaging and disrespectful” treatment of Mike Fernandez, the former co-finance chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign.

“Since he has been treated in such a disparaging and disrespectful manner by your [campaign] staff and ignored in his advice, it is obvious that there is a great deal of dysfunction and disconnection of which I want to have no part nor can I render my support any longer as you are governing from a weak and flawed platform,” Sanabria wrote in an email he sent to Scott’s staff.

Sanabria, who also quit his leadership post with the Miami-Dade GOP, said his resignation was “mostly due to your perceived insensitivity to loyal supporters and our Hispanic community in Florida.”

Fernandez quit his post as top fundraiser last week.

Three of his emails, obtained by the Herald/Times and Politico, showed Fernandez repeatedly questioned the judgment of Scott’s advisers and the quality of his campaign ads and his Hispanic outreach.

Fernandez also complained about a lack of access to Scott and accused unidentified campaign aides of mimicking a Mexican accent in front of his business partner, a charge the campaign denies but will not discuss in detail.

Fernandez, who lives in Coral Gables, is a highly successful health care billionaire entrepreneur who came to the United States as a poor young man from Cuba — an ideal symbol of a successful pro-businessman who could help Scott court Hispanic votes.

Fernandez had recommended that Scott re-appoint Sanabria to the MDX board. Sanabria has served on the MDX board under former governors Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.

The board oversees the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, which manages several major highways, including the Airport Expressway, Dolphin Expressway and the Gratigny Expressway.

Sanabria’s public comments underscore the difficulty Scott’s campaign is having with Florida Hispanics, a fast-growing group who make up about 14 percent of all registered voters.

“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,” wrote Sanabria. “Good Luck Governor, I’m not a fan any longer.”

Sanabria, 65, a real estate broker and investor who lives in Coral Gables, shared his resignation email with the Miami Herald.

Sanabria also told the Herald that he was stepping down from a leadership post within the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County. In 2012, Republican voters in 28 precincts elected him to serve as a Republican Committeeman.

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

Diaz said he contacted the governor’s office Thursday about Sanabria’s resignation and was told that Sanabria was not going to be reappointed to the MDX board.

“Gonzalo Sanabria was told he would not be reappointed and he abruptly resigned. It had nothing to do with Mike Fernandez; he was just upset that he was not being reappointed,” he told the Herald.

In a press release issued Thursday afternoon from Gov. Scott’s office, there is no mention of Sanabria’s resignation. The release notes that the governor appointed Javier Vasquez, of Miami Lakes, to the MDX board.

Vazquez, 50, is an attorney with Berger Singerman LLP, according to the release.

“He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 27, 2014, and ending April 6, 2017,” said the release without mentioning Sanabria’s resignation.

The governor’s office later issued a statement noting that Sanabria was not going to be reappointed to the MDX board and that he was upset at the decision.

The decision not to reappoint Sanabria was “due to his votes to raise toll fees on the people of Miami-Dade,” said Scott spokesman Frank Collins in a statement. “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,” the statement added.

Said Diaz: “I welcome Mr. Vasquez to the MDX board and I hope that like his predecessor he does not vote to increase tolls.”

Sergio R. Bustos is the State/Politics editor at the Miami Herald.

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