Hillary Clinton

Miami billionaire, a big Bush donor, endorses Clinton

Top Jeb Bush donor Mike Fernandez, a Republican Coral Gables healthcare magnate, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. He’s pictured here in his office in 2011.
Top Jeb Bush donor Mike Fernandez, a Republican Coral Gables healthcare magnate, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. He’s pictured here in his office in 2011. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Republican Mike Fernandez, a Miami billionaire, formally endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president Thursday, as he promised to do last year if Donald Trump became the GOP nominee.

Fernandez questioned Trump’s qualifications, calling him an “abysmally unfit candidate” who “has unleashed racist and violent acts.”

“No longer can we seek solace in wishful thinking or the illusion that this is just an election cycle and that by divine intervention all will be better after we vote,” Fernandez wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed published Thursday. “There is no basis in thinking that our democracy is so strong, our checks and balances so finely hedged, that no single person can lead us off the precipice. Trump can.”

The Clinton campaign, which has been courting Republican support, cast Fernandez’s decision as logical for anti-Trump voters.

“Across Florida, we’re seeing voters of all stripes reject Donald Trump’s divisive and dangerous agenda and instead embrace Hillary Clinton’s vision that we are stronger together,” Mahen Gunaratna, Clinton’s Florida campaign communications director, said in a statement to the Herald.

Fernandez, a top Jeb Bush donor, told the Herald in December that he intended to vote for Clinton if — as he expected — Trump secured the nomination.

“As a Republican who has contributed millions of dollars to the party’s causes, I ask: Why has our party not sought a psychological evaluation of its nominee?” Fernandez wrote in Thursday’s op-ed.

The healthcare executive has long been an outspoken Trump critic, repeatedly buying ads in the Herald and other local newspapers across the country to blast the New York developer. The most recent ad, in July, portrayed Trump as a poisonous scorpion.

An earlier anti-Trump ad, from December, that mentioned Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Juan Peron, prompted a lawsuit threat from Trump. A suit never materialized.

Fernandez turned down an invitation last week to a Coral Gables fundraiser with Clinton running mate Tim Kaine — not because he didn’t want to go, Fernandez told the Herald, but because he was going to be in Italy for a Catholic Church conference touching on “reconciliation” with Cuba. Fernandez is one of the most prominent local Republicans to support the renewed diplomatic relations with the Castro regime under the Obama administration.

“Please tell Tim, that I am with him,” Fernandez wrote to Manny Gonzalez, the president of MGM Consulting who hosted the fundraiser, adding that he hoped to meet with Clinton in September.

On Tuesday, the day of Florida’s primary election, Fernandez emailed friends a reflection on his recent invitation to the upcoming Monaco Yacht Show and tied his wealth and “luck,” as he put it, to politics.

“There is no greater country than ours, let’s make it greater,” he wrote, before referring to Trump’s campaign. “The slogan ‘Make America Great’ is not owned by the unqualified but it’s been built by each contributor who saw the opportunities, took action to extract value from it and then created a world that was meant to help us take care of ourselves but more importantly ... take care of others.”

Fernandez made headlines in 2014 when he bowed out of Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign after a Hispanic business partner of Fernandez’s overheard Scott staffers making fun of a Mexican accent en route to a Chipotle restaurant.

Backing a Democrat for president, however, is still a major step for a man who contributed more than $1 million to a political committee for Mitt Romney in 2012. Fernandez made clear in his op-ed that while this “difficult moment” has led him to endorse Clinton, he’s still voting for other GOP candidates.

“I harbor no illusion that Hillary Clinton is perfect; none of us is. I do not see eye to eye on some issues with the former senator from New York. However, Clinton is, without doubt, a superior choice to Donald Trump,” Fernandez said. “And so my fellow Republicans, swallow hard, look into your heart — and your gut. Vote for Hillary Clinton and then every single Republican on the ticket.”