Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Live and learn

 

OUR OPINION: Miami Commissioner Suarez made right call and can emerge a wiser public servant

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

We’ve gotten used to the arrogance of politicians abusing the public’s trust while swearing up and down they’re fit for office — Exhibit 1, the camera-ready Anthony Weiner running for mayor of New York City; Exhibit 2, the finally departed San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a hands-on manager, if there ever was one.

So it seemed all the more refreshing that, when his campaign for mayor hit a rough patch because of staffers’ missteps, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez bowed out of the race entirely. More impressive? Mr. Suarez took responsibility: “A lot of it is mistakes we made, and I’ve learned from it,” he said as he announced that he was abandoning his quest this week.

Mr. Suarez, 35, sought to leap to the mayor’ s office, challenging incumbent Mayor Tomás Regalado. The commissioner announced his intent in January and was a vigorous campaigner, reaching out to people across the diverse neighborhoods of the city.

He also had prodigious fundraising support, with more than $800,000 at his disposal as of June 30.

He was less adept at keeping a tight grip on the reins of his campaign and office staffers.

In June, Miami-Dade police investigators confiscated computer equipment from the homes of two aides, Juan Pablo Baggini and Esteban “Steve” Suarez, the mayor’s cousin. It was all part of a broader investigation into absentee-ballot abuse, which has been a scourge on local elections for decades.

Last week, the pair pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges for submitting requests for 20 ballots online, now against the law. Each received a year’s probation.

Just before that case was resolved, Mr. Suarez’s administrative assistant, Christina Haramboure, 24, in a fit of exasperation tweeted some derisive comments about the commissioner’s constituents over several months. Twitter, it should be noted, is not an intimate conversation with one’s best friend. When her opinion that some constituents should get “a lobotomy,” went public, her boss at first played Mr. Nice Guy and let her keep her job. As it became clearer that Brand Suarez was being sullied, he flip-flopped and fired her the next day.

Politics aside, Mr. Suarez made his priorities clear when he said Tuesday that the health and well-being of his wife, Gloria, now pregnant, was his foremost concern. The mini-tempests of his campaign were causing her stress, something she definitely does not need right now. It was another heartening take on the old fallback of scandal-mired officials about stepping down to “spend more time with my family.”

Mr. Suarez will remain on the commission until 2015. His decision to end the campaign for mayor threw a monkey wrench in the plans of those candidates vying to replace him, but that’s the way the political ball bounces.

No doubt, the mayor’s office is still in Mr. Suarez’s sights. From the first, he seemed a young man in too much of a hurry, gaining office and pushing to remake the mayor’s seat into a more-muscular position similar to Miami-Dade County’s. That one got swatted down fast.

If he’s serious about learning from his mistakes, then Mr. Suarez has a chance to use his actions on the dais to show city residents that he, indeed, brings the fresh voice and vision of inclusiveness that he touted during the campaign.

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