Miami mayor launches long-shot 2024 Republican presidential bid

Miami Mayor Francis Saurez joins a crowded field of Republican candidates dominated by former President Donald Trump.

A picture of a man in a red tie and dark suit in front of a Florida state flag
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the first Hispanic candidate to enter the 2024 presidential race [File: Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo]

Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, Florida, has become the latest Republican to launch a bid for the 2024 United States presidential race.

The son of a prominent Cuban American politician and a rising Republican star in his own right, Suarez filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to formalise his campaign, according to US media reports.

Suarez’s entry into the race makes him the third major political figure from Florida to announce their candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Two current Republican frontrunners are based in the state: former President Donald Trump and his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The 45-year-old mayor, however, would be the only major Hispanic candidate to launch a bid so far. Florida has long been a prized swing state — though recent trends indicate it is leaning further right — and its large Cuban American population has been an influential Republican base for decades.

A man stands in a wood-paneled room at a podium, speaking into a microphone as others look on.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez briefed the press this week about security arrangements for former President Donald Trump’s federal court appearance [File: Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo]

But Suarez has an uphill battle to unseat Trump at the head of the Republican field. On Tuesday, as Trump faced federal arraignment in a classified documents case, Suarez made an appearance outside the Miami court where the proceedings were unfolding, only to be confronted by angry protesters who called him a “swamp monster” or a “RINO” — an acronym for “Republican in name only”.

Suarez has publicly distanced himself from both Trump and DeSantis, positioning himself as a more centrist Republican voice.

When Trump disparaged the Caribbean country of Haiti as a “sh**hole”, Suarez took to Twitter to “wholeheartedly condemn the discriminatory comments”, citing his family roots in the immigrant community.

Suarez also told US media that he did not vote for Trump’s reelection bid in 2020. Explaining his decision to the publication Politico, Suarez said, “A politician has to be — I don’t want to say perfect, but they have to be someone that is civil, that treats people with respect, that inspires people, that has those sets of characteristics.”

Suarez also was openly sceptical of DeSantis’s early gubernatorial bid, choosing instead to vote for his Democratic rival Andrew Gillum in the 2018 race. But by 2022, when DeSantis made a second successful run for the governor’s mansion, Suarez had turned his support to the Republican.

Nevertheless, Suarez has remained a critical voice. In May, he slammed DeSantis’s ongoing feud with the entertainment company Disney, calling it a “personal vendetta” on the NewsNation show, The Hill.

Suarez himself has come under fire in recent months, as he faces allegations of misusing his position to help a real estate developper, Location Ventures, secure permitting for a condominium project.

While Miami’s mayor is allowed to hold paid positions outside of office, the role is barred from seeking “to secure special privileges or exemptions”. A local newspaper, the Miami Herald, reported this month that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation.

First elected as Miami mayor in 2017, Suarez has long been weighing a long-shot presidential bid, with reports emerging as far back as 2021, the same year as his reelection.

His father, Xavier Suarez, was Miami’s first Cuban-born mayor, initially elected in 1985. And during his own tenure as mayor, the younger Suarez positioned Miami as the next major US tech hub, seeking to draw talent away from traditional bases of innovation like California’s Silicon Valley during the height of the coronavirus pandemic

“We want to be on the next wave of innovation,” Suarez told the New York Times’s DealBook publication in 2021. He famously announced on Twitter he would accept salary payment in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin — though other digital currencies he publicly supported, like MiamiCoin, have plummetted in value or since been embroiled in scandal.

Source: Al Jazeera