LEE COUNTY, Fla. — People who’ve read a local candidate’s email using racial slurs are calling for him to drop out of the race.
Sonny Haas, running for Lee County Commissioner, 5th District has since apologized and said he was repeating what other people have said.
“I ask for forgiveness from everybody. Not just African American people, but from everybody,” he said.
Haas said he regrets using the “N” word more than once in an email to a voter.
His exact words were, “funny thing it won’t be an n-word quarters after all,” and “we have to put the n words somewhere.”
Haas said “people in power” used those words in context of Secion 8 housing moving from Fort Myers to Lehigh Acres. He said that he does not agree with them, but he was told he has to support allowing more section 8 housing rather than home ownership in Lehigh.
“You are to turn your back on it like he has for us. If you want support from us,” he said.
Haas said that refers to Frank Mann, the incumbent commissioner. Haas also wrote “the Cubans are colonizing Lehigh,” again something he said he repeated from an unnamed source.
Yajaida Aristhyl is an Afro-latina who works in Lehigh Acres. She was personally offended by the email. Instead of repeating the racist comments, she said Haas should’ve stopped the person who said them in the first place.
“The silence and the fact that they were repeated lets me know that they are in total agreement with that. And also that they’re comfortable with those words being used in their presence,” she said.
Associate Professor of Sociology Ted Thornhill said the email informs voters about a bigger problem.
“This should also inform them about these deep-seated patterns of racism that exist in Southwest Florida, he said.
He said Haas should take his ownership a step further.
“He should issue the apology, and then resign his candidacy,” said Thornhill.
Commissioner Mann issued a statement regarding the email: “I am astounded by what i read in the e-mail from Mr. Haas. The “N” word hasn’t been heard out of a politician’s mouth, even in the south, in over 40 years. nor should it be.”
A statement Thornhill called absurd.
“There are tens of thousands of politicians in the United States. And to make a claim that politicians no longer use that kind of language even when they’re in private settings is just nonsense,” he said.
Haas said he takes full responsibility for the email, but does not plan to drop out of the race for Lee County Commissioner.