Update: Frances Suarez suspended his campaign on August 29, 2023, after he failed to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate.
Can someone wit h almost no national name recognition win the Republican presidential nomination? Francis X. Suarez, the Republican mayor of Miami, is seeking to find out. Last month, he declared himself a candidate for the presidency. That made him the third Floridian, after Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, to jump into the race. Should Suarez make it to the White House, he would be the first Latino president. If he fails to win the ultimate prize but secures the vice presidential slot on a ticket, it likely won’t be as the understudy to either Trump or DeSantis. The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that members of the Electoral College shall “vote by ballot for President and Vice President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.” So Florida’s electors would be barred from voting for an all-Florida ticket. That could swing the outcome of a close presidential race, and most recent presidential races have been close.
Name: Francis Xavier Suarez
Date of Birth: October 6, 1977
Birthplace: Miami, Florida
Religion: Roman Catholic
Political Party: Republican
Marital Status: Gloria Fonts Suarez
Children: Andrew (10) and Gloriana (5)
Alma Mater: Florida International University, BA in finance, 2001; University of Florida, JD, 2004
Career: Attorney at Greenspoon Marder (2004-2009); City of Miami Commissioner for District 4 (2009-2017); Mayor of Miami (2017-present); Of counsel, Quinn Emanuel Trial Lawyers; Senior operating partner, DaGrosa Capital Partners LLC
Campaign Website: ItsTimeWeGetStarted.com
Twitter Handle: @FrancisSuarez
Threads Handle: @francissuarez
Instagram Handle: @francissuarez
Suarez followed the recent tradition of announcing a run for the White House in multiple venues. It began with the release of a video titled “I’m Running.” It is a play on words. The video begins with Suarez saying, “I have always been a runner.” It then shows him running through the streets of Miami with the narration tracing his origins in the city and his accomplishments as mayor. The video also makes clear that Suarez is running for president on the time-tested strategy of running against Washington. He says that “America’s so-called leaders confuse being loud with actual leading. All Washington wants to do is fight with each other.”
Suarez followed up the release of the video with an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America. He stressed that he has a different message from other Republican presidential candidates, particularly because he knows the “problem [sic] that the 85 percent of Americans who live in cities and 92 percent who constitute the GDP of this country are going through.” But a big chunk of the interview was taken up with Suarez declining to answer host George Stephanopoulos’s question whether former President Donald Trump had shown “the proper concern” in his handling of classified material.
Suarez then flew across the country to deliver a twenty-seven-minute speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. Titled “A Time for Choosing,” Suarez touted Miami’s current economic boom, which he attributed to the fact that “in Miami we didn’t wait for Washington. We chose to lead.”
Foreign policy made only a brief appearance in Suarez’s speech. He assailed America’s “broken immigration system” and cited it as “another massive example of failed leadership.” He declared that “China is not our partner. China is now our adversary.” He went on to argue that Beijing has sought “to undermine American power and leadership across the world, but especially in our own hemisphere.” Suarez didn’t say, however, how he would deal with either challenge.
Suarez was born in Miami in 1977 to two Cuban immigrants, Rita and Xavier Suarez. He was the oldest of four children. In 1985, his father was elected mayor of Miami, becoming the first Cuban immigrant—but not the first Latino—to hold the post.
The younger Suarez graduated from a Roman Catholic high school in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami in 1996. He then attended Florida International University in Miami-Dade County, graduating in the top 10 percent of his class with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He then enrolled in law school at the University of Florida, graduating with a J.D. in 2004.
Suarez began his career as an attorney. It did not take him long, however, to follow his father into politics. In 2009, he won a special election to fill a seat on the City of Miami Commission. He won reelection to full terms in 2011 and 2015. He then set his sights on his father’s old job. In 2017, the younger Suarez was elected mayor of Miami. He was reelected in 2021.
Being mayor of Miami is not like being mayor of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Those mayors exercise considerable executive authority. The mayor of Miami holds a “largely ceremonial” position that is a part-time rather than a full-time job and doesn’t oversee the city’s budget or the operations of its agencies. In 2018, Suarez sought to expand the mayor’s powers to more closely resemble those found in other big cities. Voters, however, rejected the move. Because the job is part-time, Suarez also works as a lawyer and as a senior operating partner at a private equity firm.
Suarez has championed high tech during his time as mayor and claims credit for turning Miami into a tech hub. He has in particular touted cryptocurrencies. In 2021, he announced that his salary as mayor would be paid in Bitcoin. He also championed a cryptocurrency called MiamiCoin, which flourished briefly before crashing. Trading in MiamiCoin was suspended earlier this year.
Some controversy surrounded Suarez as he joined the presidential race. In May, the Miami Herald reported that he had been paid more than $170,000 by a local developer to provide legal advice on how to navigate Miami’s permitting process. The story prompted the Miami-Dade state attorney and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to open an ethics investigation. The FBI and the Security Exchange Commission also have opened investigations into whether the payments constitute bribes. Suarez denies that he did anything wrong, either ethically or legally. He says that his “reputation is one that has been unimpeachable for the last thirteen years,” and that “when you start talking about running for higher office, these kinds of things start to happen."
As his announcement video suggests, Suarez enjoys running. Earlier this month, he ran in the Fifth Season 5K in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He tweeted the results:
Twitter being Twitter, Suarez caught some flak for bragging that he had run the race at 7 minute and 53 second pace.
Suarez’s official campaign slogan is: “It’s time we get started.” His comments on the campaign trail suggest, however, that his real message is: I am a uniter, not a divider; a doer, not a talker. He repeatedly criticizes leaders in Washington for failing to tackle problems, an option he says no mayor can choose. He stresses Miami’s economic boom and his success in winning elections in a Democratic-leaning city by wide margins. He regularly adds that he represents a new generation of leadership comfortable with the high-tech economy and able to reach not only fellow Hispanic voters but voters from all walks of life.
Suarez and Trump
Suarez says he did not vote for Trump in either 2016 or 2020. (He also says he voted for Ron DeSantis’s opponent in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election and that he hasn’t spoken to the governor in several years.) He publicly criticized Trump in 2018 after the forty-fifth president spoke disparagingly of countries in Africa. Nonetheless, he now says that he will vote for Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee. Suarez says that shift is motivated by “a fear of Joe Biden’s America,” which he says is “an America where the poor get poorer, it’s an America where America gets weaker, and it’s an America where the possibility of China being the lone superpower is something that frightens me to no end.”
Suarez criticized the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to indict Trump for mishandling classified documents and obstruction of justice, arguing that it put the country “on a slippery slope.” The Miami mayor also says that if he becomes president and Trump is convicted on federal charges, he will pardon the forty-fifth president “to heal the country.”
Suarez’s Foreign Policy Views
Suarez has a thin foreign policy record, which is not surprising given that mayors, especially those whose powers are largely ceremonial, generally have few reasons to plunge into world affairs. The limits to Suarez’s foreign policy knowledge made news in late June when radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt asked him if he would be talking during his campaign about the Uyghurs. The Trump and Biden administrations have both concluded that Beijing’s persecution of the Uyghurs constitutes genocide. Suarez responded to Hewitt’s question by asking, “What’s a Uyghur?”
One foreign policy issue that strikes a deep chord with Suarez is Cuba. Like many, if not most, children of Cuban immigrants, he favors being tough on the regime in Havana. He has called for imposing new sanctions on Cuba and its supporters. In 2021, he said the United States should explore taking “military action” to help Cubans protesting government repression, noting that the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama and the NATO air campaign on behalf of Kosovo in 1999 offered possible examples to follow. He argued that it was necessary to consider such a step because "Cuba is exporting communism throughout the hemisphere and throughout the world and has been doing it for decades—and that's something that should interest the national security of the United States."
One area where Suarez parts company from with many of his Republican presidential rivals is immigration. He isn’t banging the drum about insecurity along the southern U.S. border. He thinks it is a mistake to make everything “about the border, border, border, border.” He wants to approach immigration “coherently” and look at “what’s in our best interest from a national security perspective and from an economic perspective. If you have city like Miami that’s 1.4 percent unemployment, they, we, we need employees.”
Another issue where Suarez is in a minority among Republicans is climate change. In 2019, he penned a New York Times op-ed with former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that discussed the steps that Miami was taking to deal with climate change. The first two paragraphs of the op-ed put the issue bluntly:
Climate change is not a distant threat for Miami; it’s a daily presence in people’s lives. The city has been fighting to stay above water for decades. It knows that its future as a vibrant international hub for business, tourism, arts and culture depends on making the city more resilient to the impact of global warming.
That’s why the city of Miami is moving aggressively to adapt; in 2017, its citizens voted to tax themselves to build resilience against flooding and storm surges by approving a $400 million bond issue that is financing projects across the city.
He thinks that a Republican climate change plan should “come and leverage the state and local dollars that we have already spent.”
More on Suarez
Suarez hasn’t written much. He didn’t follow the once standard play of any aspiring presidential candidate: writing an inspirational memoir sprinkled with general policy recommendations before jumping into the race.
Vanity Fair profiled Suarez in 2021. The article described him as “a smooth-talking, highly popular legacy politician with a knack for drawing in Latino voters. Republicans who follow his example could build a winning coalition—if they dump Trump.”
Forbes also profiled Suarez in 2021. Their conclusion is that his success has been aided by not one, or two, but “three strong and accomplished Latina women—his mom Rita, his wife Gloria and his communications director Soledad” Cedro.
FiveThirtyEight.com examined three challenges Suarez faces in trying to win the Republican presidential nomination. One of them is that “he’s not very Trumpy.”
Other posts in this series:
Sinet Adous assisted in the preparation of this post.