Republican Party of Lee County demands commission candidate leave race, party after racist remarks

A candidate for Lee County Commission is in hot water with his own party after an email showed he used racist remarks about Lehigh Acres.

In a letter sent to Sonny Haas on Wednesday, the Republican Party of Lee County said, “We demand that Sonny Haas leave the Republican Party and withdraw from the race.”

Haas said he isn’t going anywhere and he believes he’s the better man to represent the people of Lehigh Acres, that the people in the community understand he wasn’t speaking for himself in that email chain. Instead, he was quoting someone else, he said.

Haas is a frequent candidate for a chair on the Lee County Commission. This time, his fourth, the party wants him gone.

“Certain words are fighting words. Certain words bring up such a strong emotion that you can no longer have a conversation about solving problems,” said Jonathan Martin, chair of the Republican Party of Lee County.

In an email thread, Haas said Commissioner Frank Mann turned Lehigh Acres into “a colored quarters” in order to rebuild Fort Myers. He accused Mann of turning his back on the problems in his own district, later saying “Cubans are colonizing Lehigh…funny thing. It won’t be a [N-word] quarters after all.”

It has Martin demanding Haas leave the party and the commission race.

“I couldn’t believe that he thought that it was OK to use such derogatory language, to use a word that is so inflammatory,” Martin said.

Haas spoke with WINK News on the phone and said the Republican Party is convicting him without due process. He said a “contributor” told him if Haas wanted his vote, then Haas “will have to turn his back on Lehigh like Frank Mann. We want black folk out of Lehigh.”

Haas said he was replaying that message in those emails and regrets not making it clear he was quoting another person. He admitted he should never have used the N-word, and apologized.

But Martin said no matter the motive, that word is inexcusable.

“There’s nothing that the party, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, can do to prevent somebody from putting their name on the ballot, but what we can do is take a strong stance against intolerance.”

Mann said Wednesday that allegations against him make no sense, and that he has no response to a man who has shown such behavior, referring to Haas’ use of the N-word.

Letter to Sonny Haas from Jonathan Martin
Email thread involving Sonny Haas

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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