Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez has yet to say if he’ll run for mayor.
His campaign finance reports may speak louder than words.
Suarez raised more than $460,000 for his political committee in the last three months of 2012, a report released Friday shows. The only official candidate raising money, Mayor Tomás Regalado, collected about $91,000 in contributions over the same quarter.
The election is Nov. 5.
The early fundraising efforts signal what city observers have been speculating about for months: that Suarez, the charismatic, 35-year-old son of former Miami mayor and current County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, could pose a serious threat to Regalado.
“The good news for Francis is that he’s going to have the resources,” Florida International University professor Dario Moreno said. “There are enough political and business types that Regalado has angered. They are going to be able to raise money [for Suarez].”
Suarez has been raising cash through an “electioneering communications organization” he chairs called The Future is Now. He opened the account in February to raise money for his strong-mayor initiative, which failed to find support on the City Commission, he said. The political communications organization can be used to fund campaign mailers and advertisements for Suarez and other candidates. But under state law, the communications cannot “expressly advocate” the election or defeat of a candidate.
Suarez does not have an official campaign account because he has not filed the paperwork to run for mayor. He would have to resign his commission seat to run. Regalado, meanwhile, has been soliciting traditional campaign contributions, which are limited to $500 per individual. Political committees like Suarez’s are not subject to caps. Raquel Regalado, the mayor’s daughter and campaign manager, called Suarez’s fundraising methods “disingenuous.”
“There’s a reason you have to say you are a candidate before you can raise money,” Raquel Regalado said. “Some people gave to [Suarez’s political organization] because he said the purpose was to raise money for the strong-mayor initiative. They didn’t know he was running for mayor.”
Suarez said he has been “open” with his donors about his potential candidacy.
His campaign manager — his cousin, Steve Suarez — called the criticism from the Regalado camp “ironic coming from a group of people who have been found guilty of multiple ethics violations regarding campaign finance.”
Last year, the mayor paid $1,000 in fines for not declaring his Coral Way home on financial disclosure forms. He also came under scrutiny for receiving $8,000 in campaign contributions from the Dominican Republic in 2009.
Suarez said he plans to make a final decision and an announcement regarding his candidacy “over the next few days.” If he files, he will have to give up his commission seat, though the remaining commissioners could vote to keep him on the dais until the voters choose a permanent replacement.
Some observers say Suarez’s candidacy is the worst-kept secret at City Hall. But Suarez insists he has some details to work out.
“This is a big endeavor,” he said. “It is not something you do haphazardly.”