Clearwater landscaper sticks up for Alex Sink

  • Francisco Cruzcruz, Felix Mendoza & Elena McCullough

A week after Republicans pounced on Alex Sink's comments at a CD13 candidates forum regarding immigration, Felix Mendoza, president of Migrants United of Hidalgo and owner of Mendoza Landscaping for the past 12 years, told reporters that Sink said nothing wrong at the debate.

"They never felt offended," said Mendoza, speaking through a translator to reporters in a mall parking lot off of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater on Monday afternoon. The landscaper, who met with Sink last month at Clearwater's Hispanic Outreach Center, was joined at the press conference by several members of the Latino community who came to support him.

"With her we're going to work to make the community stronger," he continued, referring to the Latino community. "They are very excited to be working with candidates they believe in and this is nothing. They want to move beyond this to what really needs to be done. And what really needs to be done is to make communities better and stronger and give rights to those individuals who are doing work that others are choosing not to do."

The comments that the Republicans found so objectionable were these:

“Immigration reform is important in our country ... because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean out hotel rooms or do our landscaping?”...“And we don’t need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.”

The Sarasota County Republican Party sent out a video hours after the debate with the label “Racist Liberal Democrat Alex Sink.” And David Jolly himself last Thursday called Sink's comments "disgusting," and suggested that they made her unfit to serve.

"They are not offended," said Elena McCullough, who was translating Mendoza's remarks. She's a Pasco County Democrat who is volunteering for the Sink campaign. "I think it was completely taken out of context," she offered when asked her own opinion about Sink's remark. "They believe in Alex Sink. So if it was something offensive, why would the community still be behind her?"

When asked if he knew anything about Jolly's stance on immigration reform, Mendoza did not directly respond. Jolly has said that he disagrees with the bill passed by the Senate last year on immigration reform, saying that he does not believe in granting "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants.

Sink herself has not answered any direct questions about her immigration remark in the past week. One of her spokespeople, Ashley Walker, issued a response to the Tampa Bay Times last week in which she said, "This selectively chosen clip misrepresents Alex's full statement, which emphasized her commitment to giving hard-working people a chance to achieve the American Dream. Alex is the only candidate in the race who favors bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform."