Miami GOP Mayor Francis Suarez has filed papers to run for president, according to new FEC filings, marking the long-time candidate’s formal entry into the race.
Suarez is scheduled to speak Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Appearing on Fox News over the weekend, the mayor said he would make a “major announcement” in the coming weeks and pointed to his comments at the Reagan Library as “something Americans should embrace.”
Suárez, a Cuban-American, is currently serving a second term as mayor of Florida’s second most populous city, Miami. Until recently, he also served as chairman of the bipartisan American Conference of Mayors.
The first major Hispanic candidate to enter the Republican race, Suarez starts the primary as a decided underdog, with former President Donald Trump, a resident of nearby Palm Beach, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rising in the polls. Chief among them are former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. They include Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The Republican race has also been rocked by federal indictments over Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left office. The former president remains popular with the party base, and the candidates are divided in their reactions to the impeachment.
Suarez, who has previously criticized Trump, told Fox News on Sunday that news of the former president’s first federal indictment felt “un-American” and “wrong on some level.”
In an interview with CBS News last month, Suarez said deciding to run for president was a “soul-searching process.” He nodded to his lack of national name recognition, saying, “I’m someone who should be better known by this country.”
Suarez’s late entry into the GOP primary compared to other contenders could hurt his chances of qualifying for the first Republican primary debate on August 23 in Milwaukee. The Republican National Committee has imposed strict voting and donor limits on candidates. Meet to set the stage.
Before his first election as mayor in 2017, Suarez served as a Miami city commissioner for eight years. His father, Xavier Suarez, also served as mayor of Miami in the 1980s and 1990s, though his last victory in 1997 was overturned following a voter fraud investigation.
As mayor, Suarez sought to bring a new era of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship to his city, including promoting industries such as cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. He advocated for Miami to become the new Silicon Valley and called on Elon Musk to move Twitter headquarters to the city.
Suarez has also spoken out about fighting climate change — “It’s not theoretical for us in the city of Miami, it’s real,” he told CBS News last year.
The mayor has locked horns with DeSantis at times, including over the governor’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, his claims of election fraud in the state and, most recently, his feud with Disney.
However, Suarez is a supporter of a Florida law pushed by DeSantis that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” which bans some instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. But Disney’s opposition to the move led to plans to take over the DeSantis Special Taxing District, which would allow the entertainment company to build its iconic theme park empire in Central Florida. The move has alarmed some Republicans, who question whether elected officials should use state power to punish a corporation.
Disney announced last month that it was canceling plans to build a $1 billion office complex estimated to create 2,000 white-collar jobs.
“He took on a winning issue that we all agreed,” Suarez told NewsNation in May, “and now whether it’s out of spite or personal vendetta, it’s costing the state 2,000 jobs right now. A billion dollar investment.”
When DeSantis proposed a police force to investigate election fraud, Suarez told CNN’s Jake Tapper last year that he didn’t see it “in our state or in our city, frankly, as a big problem.”
During the pandemic, Suarez opposed the reopening of DeSantis bars as Covid-19 cases continued to rise in the state. He pointed to “the issue of whether the decisions (taken by the government) are data-driven or political-driven.”
Suarez told the Miami Herald that he voted for DeSantis’ Democratic challenger in 2018, but he voted for the governor.
Suarez’s presidential bid comes as Florida, a long-swing state, has been red in the past few election cycles, with Republicans making gains, particularly among Hispanic voters.
In 2020, Trump lost Hispanic-majority Miami-Dade County — the state’s most populous county, which includes the city of Miami — by 7 points. Four years ago, he lost the county to Hillary Clinton by 30 points. Similarly, last year, DeSantis was re-elected, in part because of his victory in Miami-Dade, which has historically been a heavy source of Democratic votes. DeSantis also won Orlando-area Osceola County, another recent Democratic stronghold with a large Puerto Rican population.
In a Fox News op-ed last fall, Suarez said the GOP victory in Miami “could be replicated nationally if we learn the lessons we’ve learned about building a conservative majority that includes Republicans and all elected officials.”
“In Miami, we’ve fostered a high-tech economy that delivers results, and voters have responded to our work by voting for a Republican for my first mayoral candidate, nearly 80% of my re-election results,” he wrote.