A candidate for Lee County Commission used a racial slur multiple times in an email to a voter this week.
Sonny Haas’ email became public after being forwarded to County Commission offices. In it, he describes how county policy tried to turn Lehigh Acres into a “colored quarters.”
“Funny thing,” he wrote. “It won’t be a n—er quarters after all.”
Excerpts from the email have been censored and cleaned up for grammar for this report. The full email exchange can be read below.
Haas apologized after NBC-2 first reported his use of the language in his email.
He told Florida Politics he has heard from numerous leaders in the community. “I’m not a racist. I’ve apologized everyday for using the n-word,” he said. “I’ve been educated by African American leadership.”
But he maintains his use of the words was quoting others in the community, in fact trying to demonstrate an opinion opposite of racists.
“Everything was words others had said,” he said. “I’m talking about movers and shakers. Developers, Realtors and bankers and such.”
Haas’ crude recounting of history touches on Lee County’s troubled past with race relations. Federal courts ruled as late as 1998 the county had failed to integrate its schools to comply with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case from 1954.
Haas appears to be attempting to explain planning policies that pushed financially marginalized communities further east and away from the coastal communities in the Southwest Florida county.
“I found out the truth,” he wrote. “That Lehigh was turned into a colored quarter by design. To rebuild Fort Myers. They tore down the section 8 complexes and gave the tenants vouchers.
“Lee County let contractors build cheap affordable houses and duplexes to place the Section Eighters in.”
Haas is challenging County Commissioner Frank Mann in a Republican primary for the District 5 seat. He accuses Mann of turning his back on problems in the district.
It’s in discussing the current makeup up Lehigh now that he uses the racial slur. He discusses how roughly 60% of the area is Hispanic, while 20% are black and 20% are white.
That’s when he suggests the area won’t be a quarters for blacks, using the slur.
“It will be bought by the Cubans,” he writes. “But they are buying and renting. They are working folks.”
Haas told Florida Politics his intent was to voice a need to stop the displacement of “blight” into Lehigh.
“I am for home ownership in Lehigh,” he said. “I don’t care what color or race a person is… If all of Lehigh was black, and they were home owners, I would be all for it.”
He suggests Lehigh will become unlivable for most people if Mann wins reelection and voters should move out. It’s unclear what the racial makeup of the community would be should those instructions be followed.
Haas in the controversial email suggests if Democrat Juan Gonzalez fails to qualify and the primary opens to all voters, he will win the black vote.
“Then the Democrats get to vote in our primary. Which is a good thing,” he writes. “The African American community leaders in the county all support me. They know I’m for jobs and opportunity.”
Otherwise, he suggests more of the same population shifts will occur.
“That’s the real plan. I was told. Sonny. We have to put the n—-ers somewhere,” he wrote. “It’s that simple. That’s Frank’s plan. To turn his back on it. It’s all true. Sad but true.”