Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez pulled out of the race for mayor Monday evening, saying a series of miscues by staffers set his fledgling campaign on its heels and threatened to become too stressful for his pregnant wife, Gloria.
Standing in the driveway of his Coral Gate home with Gloria at his side and other family members looking on, Suarez said he consulted with family members and associates over the weekend and spoke with his main opponent, Mayor Tomás Regalado, early Monday.
Suarez, who announced his candidacy for mayor in January, said he and his wife had been trying to have a baby for years and learned of Gloria’s pregnancy only in the past three months.
“This is a very personal decision. My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for the past four years,” he said. “It was a concern to me that the negativity [in the campaign] would become an issue for my family.”
Despite raising family concerns, Suarez took responsibility for a series of blunders that have hampered his campaign since June, admitting it was more difficult than he imagined to run a mayoral campaign.
“A lot of it is mistakes we made, and I’ve learned from it,” he said. Suarez’s decision came one day before the deadline to officially file to run for mayor on Nov. 5.
Suarez’s move opens the door for an easy reelection for Regalado, who will now face a field of unknowns.
Despite dropping out of the mayor’s race, Suarez will remain the commissioner for Miami’s District 4, the city’s westernmost. Suarez, 35, won his first political campaign in 2009, replacing Regalado when he won the mayor’s seat. Suarez was reelected without opposition in 2011, and will remain at his commission post until 2015.
The son of former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez — now a Miami-Dade County commissioner — Francis Suarez often speaks of how politics is in his blood and never denied he would make a run for mayor one day. Early in 2012, Suarez boldly moved to restructure Miami government, pushing to change the city charter to a strong-mayor system similar to Miami-Dade’s. The movement died quickly after it failed to gain support from other commissioners and the administration.
Unbowed, Suarez announced his candidacy for mayor in January.
Though flush with cash, the Suarez mayoral campaign has been mired in missteps over the past few months.
They began in June when Miami-Dade police investigators went to the homes of two campaign aides and confiscated computer equipment in a sweep looking into absentee ballot issues. The investigation resulted in no-contest misdemeanor pleas last week by campaign operations manager Juan Pablo Baggini and Esteban “Steve” Suarez, the commissioner’s cousin. Both will serve one year of probation for unlawfully submitting 20 ballot requests online.
State prosecutors also say the two men paid two women at a Cinco de Mayo party in Mary Brickell Village to sign up absentee ballot voters. Prosecutors said the women were doing shots of alcohol with potential voters in exchange for their signing forms authorizing the campaign to request ballots on their behalf.
State prosecutors determined Suarez’s only involvement in the ballot miscue was telling the aides to make sure what they were doing was legal.
A week before the two aides were charged, Suarez was forced to fire an administrative assistant who had gone rogue on her Twitter account. Christina Haramboure, 24, tweeted derogatory comments about constituents over several months, posting at one point: “PLEASE GET A LIFE, A HOBBY, A LOBOTOMY.”