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After Fernandez departure, Mexican-accent controversy nags Gov. Rick Scott's campaign


Florida Republicans had a well-scripted plan to showcase their Latino outreach last week, as an immigrant-friendly tuition bill passed the state House and national Republicans unveiled their Florida Hispanic Advisory Council.

Then came the Mexican-accent controversy.

On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that Gov. Rick Scott’s top campaign-finance co-chairman, Mike Fernandez, raised a concern in an email last month about campaign associates joking around in over-the-top Mexican accents.

Insiders whispered about the email for weeks, but some of the contents became public only after Fernandez suddenly quit his campaign post, citing the need to spend more time with his family while expressing confidence in Scott’s chances.

Fernandez, however, also expressed some dissatisfaction with the direction of the reelection effort.

The Scott campaign went into double-damage-control mode, reeling from Fernandez’s abrupt departure and downplaying the Mexican-accent issue, which apparently played out in a van en route to a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables.

“Mike was not in the van,” Scott’s campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, said in an email to the Herald.

“I spoke to every staffer in the van,” Sellers wrote. “If something was said in an accent, no one remembers what it was. We are a diverse organization and we do not tolerate inappropriate comments.”

Fernandez, born in Cuba, won’t comment about internal campaign conversation or about the email. Nor would Sellers confirm whether she received it.

It appears from the context of Fernandez’s resignation, and the private comments from his friends, that he was less worried about the “insensitive” statements (whatever they were) and was far more frustrated and concerned about the campaign’s messaging, such as the quality of the campaign’s emails and videos. Fernandez kept fundraising all the while, pulling in about $35 million, which Fernandez said was his goal.

Democrats aren’t waiting to find out what was said and immediately began highlighting the Mexican-comment issue as part of their campaign to keep Hispanics away from the GOP.

Column here