Miami-Dade County

Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez commits to 2017 mayoral run

Francis Suarez
Francis Suarez El Nuevo Herald

There will be no more hedging: Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez will make another run at the mayor’s office in 2017.

Suarez’s interest in redeeming his aborted 2013 campaign has been well known. But he said in an interview for the first time that he’s fully committed to campaigning again for the city’s top elected post. Now, the question is when he’ll officially declare his candidacy for a race that is still — or some would say only — 18 months away.

“I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to run. It’s a matter of when I’m going to file my paperwork,” he told the Miami Herald. “It’s going to be soon.”

When he does officially declare his candidacy, Suarez will enter the mayor’s race with considerable credentials, name recognition and a substantial war chest. He will likely be the first contender to launch a campaign for the seat that Mayor Tomás Regalado will leave due to term limits in November 2017.

Many observers are still watching to see if District 3 Commissioner Frank Carollo will decide to run, and whether Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, Mayor Regalado’s daughter, will enter the fray if her bid to unseat County Mayor Carlos Gimenez falls short in August. But in many ways, Suarez’s early announcement will set the table for the upcoming campaign.

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to run.

Commissioner Francis Suarez

“I think Francis at this point has a very clear road to the mayorship,” said Republican pollster and FIU associate professor Dario Moreno.

Though Suarez hasn’t opened a campaign account yet, he managed to go under the radar for more than a year while raising more than $725,000 in a political committee chaired by Sarah Manzano, called Miami’s Future. Most of the money was raised during a city commission reelection campaign last year that never drew a challenger, although $300,000 was left over from his short-lived bid to topple Regalado three years ago.

Still, Suarez, 38, said his campaign will be about issues, solutions and people, not money.

He’s spent the last three years rehabbing his political career following the collapse of a 2013 mayoral campaign due to sloppy mistakes that spurred an absentee ballot investigation. (Prosecutors cleared Suarez of any wrongdoing, and two campaign workers received probation after pleading to misdemeanors.)

Since then, he’s become president of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, vice-chairman of the county’s Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, and a father. He announced last week a new position as “of counsel” at prominent law firm GrayRobinson. He’s also making a second push for a voter referendum that would empower the office of Miami mayor by giving the largely ceremonial office true executive powers.

I think Francis at this point has a very clear road to the mayorship.

Pollster Dario Moreno

“I feel like I’ve really worked hard for the last six years, certainly 2013 was a tremendous learning experience for me, some things to do and not to do,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a better place maturity-wise.”

Like Moreno, many believe Suarez has the inside track to winning the 2017 election. But much can happen in 18 months and campaign funds don’t guarantee victory in Miami. Pollster and Coconut Grove resident Fernand Amandi noted that in Miami, the tenor around traditional Cuban exile politics is changing with the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba; around the country, voters appear to be bucking trends and established campaigns.

“If this were 2000 or 2001, you could probably predict the results,” Amandi said. “But we’re in the middle of an earthquake, a political earthquake. And Miami, you could argue, is in some ways the epicenter.”