Miami Republican Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare executive, plans to vote for Democrat Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email.
Fernandez recently backed up that support with a $100,000 donation to a super PAC supporting Murphy, money that is affording the group to make last-minute moves to prop up Murphy’s candidacy in the competitive contest against Rubio.
Fernandez — a top Jeb Bush donor in the GOP presidential primary who formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in September — told the Herald late Thursday that the main reason he’s voting for Murphy is because of the Jupiter congressman’s support for lifting the Cuba embargo.
Yes, I am supporting Patrick Murphy as the man who has had the backbone to speak the truth on the Cuba [embargo] and other issues.
Mike Fernandez, Miami Republican and billionaire healthcare executive
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Fernandez cited a recent poll by Florida International University, which he said found Cuban Americans have shifted their position on Cuba, and “yet Sen. Rubio ignores the sentiments and desires of those who voted him into public office.”
“So, yes, I am supporting Patrick Murphy as the man who has had the backbone to speak the truth on the Cuba [embargo] and other issues,” Fernandez wrote. “I take my positions as an American, and I respect the position of anyone who disagrees with me.”
Fernandez also said: “It pains me to have seen my party ignore the reality we live in. At a time when the facts are ‘in your face stupid’ that our nation, state and community have changed, the Republican Party has had their head buried deep in denial as they hope that the days of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ are coming back.”
While Murphy supports lifting the Cuba embargo, he shied away from stating that position directly and hedged his responses when asked about it at two recent debates against Rubio.
One poll last week showed Murphy tied with Rubio. More than 30 others since June — including three of the most recent ones — have shown Rubio with a lead, sometimes within the margin of error.
Fernandez’s donation two weeks ago to the pro-Murphy “Floridians for a Strong Middle Class” super PAC was among $430,000 that the super PAC took in in the first three weeks of October, affording the super PAC to pay for a last-minute ad blitz in Murphy’s congressional district in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Fernandez’s contribution was disclosed Thursday in a new filing to the Federal Election Commission.
As of Oct. 19, the super PAC reported having $869,000 in cash on hand, but that figure is already out of date. The Senate Majority PAC, a national Democratic super PAC, announced Thursday it was giving at least $1 million to Floridians for a Strong Middle Class to help support Murphy’s candidacy with less than two weeks before Election Day.
Earlier this month — when Murphy wasn’t faring as well and the Senate race wasn’t the dead-heat it became in the past couple weeks — the Senate Majority PAC pulled $6 million in ad support intended to help Murphy. (The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also pulled at least $8 million of its money from Florida this fall; none of that has returned as Murphy’s prospects have improved slightly against Rubio.)
Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei reported from Miami.