- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced his presidential bid on Thursday, making him the third Florida Republican to enter the field.
- Suarez deserves credit for Miami’s growth and prosperity over the last few years, several of the state’s political operatives and South Floridians told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “The building that’s going on down there, it’s just nonstop. The vibe, there’s Michelin restaurants all over the place, it’s the hottest city in the country — I think in the world, even,” and “he’s running it,” Bob Rubin, CEO and president of conservative wealth management firm Rubin Wealth Advisors in South Florida, told the DCNF.
Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez made his entrance into the 2024 Republican primary field on Thursday, making him the third Florida contender in the race, but many political operatives view his candidacy as a longshot.
Suarez officially entered the growing Republican primary field via an announcement video Thursday, becoming Florida’s third GOP candidate, along with the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, and former President Donald Trump. Though several political operatives in the state, South Florida consultants and local Miami officials attribute the city’s growth and prosperity to Suarez’ leadership, some question his motives for running for president.(RELATED: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Announces Run For President)
“The city of Miami is booming right now,” Justin Sayfie, political consultant out of South Florida and former advisor to Florida’s then-Gov. Jeb Bush, told the DCNF. “Miami’s experiencing a revitalization and an economic boom and a flourishing that is possibly unprecedented in the city’s history, and I think that the mayor deserves credit for his leadership of the city during this really remarkable period of growth.”
Though most of the governing power of the city rests with the larger Miami-Dade County leadership, several state political operatives and South Floridians attribute Miami’s “revitalization” to Suarez.
“[Suarez put] out the welcome mat for businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, who wanted to relocate or who are considering relocating to Florida,” said Sayfie. “That welcome mat has had an extremely positive effect because those investors and entrepreneurs and businesses can choose to go anywhere, and having a mayor of a city who’s welcoming makes a big difference.”
Under Suarez’ watch, Miami has seen reduced crime, decreased taxes and a bolstered business economy, which Bob Rubin, CEO and president of wealth management firm Rubin Wealth Advisors in South Florida, credits to the mayor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his willingness to reopen quicker than other big city Democratic mayors, who have “run their cities into the ground.”
“The building that’s going on down there, it’s just nonstop. The vibe, there’s Michelin restaurants all over the place, it’s the hottest city in the country — I think in the world, even,” and “he’s running it,” said Rubin.
Christine King, District 5 commissioner for the city of Miami, told the DCNF that Suarez is “very popular” in the city, and has a good relationship with all of the commissioners; she thinks it’s “amazing” that he’s running for president. Suarez worked closely with King to fund a Summer Youth Employment Program, which the commissioner said was really “important” to her and her district. King also mentioned his commitment to advancing technology in Miami by helping initiate a STEM scholarship program for Miami students.
“He brought a lot of business to Miami, a lot of tech. We came out of the pandemic very strong under his leadership,” said King. “He’s fair, he’s thoughtful, he’s about progress, he’s about making things better, not making things worse, and of the choices we have now for the Republican candidates, he’s looking pretty good to me.”
Rubin and Bryan Leib, advisory board member for Miami-Dade County and executive director of CASEPAC, argue his motivations for running for president are likely to garner more name recognition nationally, and set him up for seeking higher office like the governorship, cabinet position or as a vice president pick. Sayfie doesn’t think increasing his name ID is his reason for running, and believes there are many other ways Suarez could increase his notoriety in Florida, like proposing a statewide constitutional amendment or referendum.
“It’s a jump just to go to Tallahassee,” said Rubin. “Going from being mayor just to run for U.S. senator is a big deal, and that in itself is a great thing to do if you could pull that off, right? So, I just think he’s biting off a little more than he could chew.”
Rubin and Sayfie aren’t sure where Suarez stands ideologically on some of the more red meat, conservative topics in the Republican Party, as he’s only dealt with local, “pothole issues,” rather than national concerns.
“As mayor, he has governed as a fiscal conservative, but honestly, I don’t know where he is on some of these other traditional, socially conservative issues,” said Sayfie.
“He’s definitely not a big “C” conservative,” said Rubin, noting Suarez’ stance on climate change.
The mayor didn’t support Trump in either of his presidential bids, and voted for the Democratic candidate in 2018 instead of DeSantis, according to multiple reports. Suarez recently criticized DeSantis for his lack of social skills, and told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade that the governor “seems to struggle with relationships.”
Leib told the DCNF that Suarez is “well-liked at a local level” and argued there’s no reason why he and DeSantis shouldn’t have a good relationship, as they’re both patriotic, Florida conservatives who love their state.
Suarez served on Miami’s board of commissioners from 2009 until he was elected as the city’s first Miami-born mayor in 2017, according to his office website. He followed his father, Xavier Suarez, who was the Miami mayor in the 1980s and 1990s, and overwhelmingly won the nonpartisan election for his first term by roughly 80 points, and handily secured reelection in 2021, beating his opponent 78.6% to 11.6%, according to Ballotpedia.
The role of Miami mayor is part-time and largely ceremonial, which allows Suarez to bring in additional income from various private sector positions. Suarez is currently under an investigation by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust regarding payments received from consultant work for a developer, according to the Miami Herald.
Prior to his political endeavors, Suarez received a law degree from the University of Florida, and continues to practice law at the international law firm Quinn Emmanuel LLP, and is an attorney for law firm Greenspoon Marder, where he specializes in corporate and real-estate finances. Suarez most recently served as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2022.
Suarez has been a supporter of innovation and cryptocurrency in Miami, which Rubin said could attract libertarian and youth voters who are interested in the field. The mayor, who sought to make Miami the “crypto capital” and converted his salary into Bitcoin, drew criticism on the subject after promoting alleged fraudster and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
Sayfie and Jaime Miller, former executive director of the Florida Republican Party, believe Suarez has strong retail political skills which could be an advantage in the key early primary states, they told the DCNF. Suarez said in late April he’s “comfortable being a retail politician,” and acknowledged its importance in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which he’s visited in preparation for a presidential bid.
“His name ID is likely abysmal, not only throughout the country, but throughout anywhere in Florida that’s not Miami or Miami-Dade County,” said Miller. “The reality is that he likely doesn’t have the financial resources or the team or the name ID to compete on a national stage long term like some other people in the third lane.”
Miller argued that because Miami-Dade County is heavily populated, he wouldn’t count Suarez out from winning Florida’s primary, but acknowledged the primary calendar “doesn’t play into his favor.” The mayor would need to “score an early victory” to be competitive in the primaries, and Florida is his only opportunity to do so, said Miller.
“If Florida was the first state, the mayor of Miami would have a chance of really getting on the stage just because he’s from Miami, and if he could do well enough in like Hillsborough and Orlando where there’s other large Republican Hispanic populations, he would have a shot of winning Florida,” said Miller.
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