Miami GOP Mayor Francis Suarez has filed paperwork to run for president, according to new FEC filings, marking the long-shot candidate’s formal entry to the race.
Suarez is set to speak Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. During an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, the mayor said he would make a “major announcement” in the coming weeks and pointed to his remarks at the Reagan Library as “one that Americans should tune in to.”
Suarez, a Cuban American, is currently in his second term as mayor of Miami, Florida’s second-most populous city. Until recently, he also served as the president of the bipartisan US Conference of Mayors.
Ahead of his filing, a super PAC supporting Suarez on Wednesday released a two-minute video touting his leadership of the Florida city as he teased a longshot bid for the White House.
“Conservative mayor Francis Suarez chose a better path for Miami,” the video’s narrator says, highlighting his approach to crime and support for law enforcement.
The first major Hispanic candidate to enter the Republican race, Suarez starts off as a decided underdog in the primary, with former President Donald Trump, a resident of nearby Palm Beach, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis towering over the field in polling. The primary also includes former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Trump’s recent federal indictment over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office has also roiled the Republican contest. The former president remains popular with the party base, and candidates have been split in their reactions to the indictment.
Suarez, who has previously been critical of Trump, told Fox News on Sunday that the news of the former president’s first federal indictment felt “un-American” and “wrong at some level.”
In an interview with CBS News last month, Suarez said deciding on a presidential bid was a “soul-searching process.” He also nodded to his lack of national name recognition, saying, “I’m someone who needs to be better known by this country.”
Suarez’s late entry into the GOP primary, relative to other rivals, could affect his chances of qualifying for the first Republican primary debate, scheduled to take place in Milwaukee on August 23. The Republican National Committee has laid out strict polling and donor thresholds that candidates must meet to make the stage.
Prior to his first election as mayor in 2017, Suarez served 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 an investigation into voter fraud.
As mayor, Suarez has sought to bring a new era of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship to his city, including promoting industries such as cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. He has advocated making Miami the new Silicon Valley and even invited Elon Musk to move Twitter headquarters to the city.
Suarez has also spoken about combating 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 on occasion locked horns with DeSantis, 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.
Still, Suarez is a proponent of the Florida law championed by DeSantis that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” which bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. But Disney’s opposition to the measure led DeSantis to plot a takeover of the special taxing district that allowed the entertainment giant to build its iconic theme park empire in Central Florida. The move has alarmed some Republicans, who question whether elected executives should use state power to punish a company.
Disney announced last month it was scrapping plans to build a $1 billion office campus that is estimated to have created 2,000 white-collar jobs.
“He took an issue that was a winning issue that we all agreed on,” Suarez told NewsNation in May, “and it looks like now it’s something that’s spite or maybe potentially a personal vendetta, which has cost the state now potentially 2,000 jobs in 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 “as a major problem in our state, or in our city, frankly.”
During the pandemic, Suarez opposed DeSantis’ reopening of bars as Covid-19 cases continued to increase in the state. He pointed to “the issue of whether the decisions (made by the state) are data-driven or political.”
Suarez told the Miami Herald he voted for DeSantis’ Democratic opponent in 2018, but he voted for the governor.
Suarez’s presidential bid comes as Florida, long a swing state, has been trending red, with Republicans making gains in the past few election cycles, especially 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 earlier, he had lost the county to Hillary Clinton by 30 points. Similarly, last year, DeSantis coasted to reelection, in part due to his success in Miami-Dade, which has historically been a huge source of Democratic votes. DeSantis also won Osceola County in the Orlando area, another recent Democratic stronghold with a large Puerto Rican population.
In a Fox News op-ed last fall, Suarez said that the GOP success in Miami “can be replicated nationally if Republicans, and all elected officials, learn the lessons we learned about building an inclusive conservative majority.”
“In Miami, we’ve grown a high-tech economy that delivers results, and voters have responded to our work by voting Republican at all levels, from my nearly 80% re-election results as mayor to the increasing large margins of Republican congressional candidates,” he wrote.