“I think the voters will continue to support me because I have followed through on my promises,” he said. He disagreed that the city has been poorly managed. “I have not increased taxes, and I have provided services to poor people.”
Observers expect the race to be close.
Foreman, the Barry University professor, said Suarez’s last name will be both an advantage and a liability.
“There’s a big fan base for both Francis and his father,” Foreman said. “But there are people who still remember the negative aspects of his dad’s reign, and that could hurt him.”
Xavier Suarez was elected to four terms as mayor, but was removed from office when a judge found evidence of voter fraud in the 1997 election. Suarez was not accused of wrongdoing, and now sits on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Francis Suarez said he initially resisted the idea of running for elected office.
“I’m not one of those people who grew up thinking I want to be a politician,” he said. “I’ve seen the ups and the downs. I felt it at a very personal level.”
It was only after his house was burglarized that Suarez got involved in his local homeowners association, and eventually decided to run for City Commission. He knocked on more than 8,000 doors in that first election, he said, and included his cellphone number on his campaign mailers.
He plans to follow a similar grassroots strategy in the mayoral election, he said. This time, however, he will have a lot more money.
Suarez, who is 30 years younger than Regalado, is likely to face criticism that he is too young and inexperienced to run for mayor. But Suarez said he didn’t see the need to “wait his turn.”
“The time is now,” he said. “I see this as an opportunity for our generation to take a leadership role in the community.”
There are two other candidates in the race: Williams Armbrister and Jeffrey Anthony Benjamin. Neither has raised more than $1,000, according to campaign finance reports.
Emilio Gonzalez, former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President George W. Bush, said he is also considering running for mayor.
El Nuevo Herald Staff Writer Melissa Sanchez contributed to this report.