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Is Francis Suarez a sure bet to be Miami’s next mayor?

Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez signs paperwork in front of City Clerk Todd Hannon after submitting petition signatures on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, to qualify for the November ballot as a candidate for Miami mayor.
Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez signs paperwork in front of City Clerk Todd Hannon after submitting petition signatures on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, to qualify for the November ballot as a candidate for Miami mayor. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Francis Suarez isn’t superstitious. But he doesn’t like talking about it, even if he hopes it’s true:

With less than three months to go until Election Day, he looks like a shoo-in to become Miami’s next mayor.

Backed by a well-oiled campaign machine set to cruise control, the 39-year-old city commissioner is hitting the campaign home-stretch with more than $2 million in unspent campaign cash behind him. He has the kind of priceless name recognition only an eight-year elected official and the son of a former Miami mayor could claim. And he is supported by the city’s police and fire unions.

He also enters mid-August front-loaded with voter support, having submitted nearly 2,000 valid signed petitions ahead of a Friday deadline to make the November ballot without paying a city qualifying fee. On Thursday, flanked by television crews, community activists, his wife Gloria and their 3-year-old son Andrew Xavier, he brought in dozens more signatures for “symbolic” value.

“I thought it was a good symbol of what the campaign should be about, and what being mayor should be about,” Suarez said later in an interview.

I think the time has passed for someone to realistically come out and challenge Francis

David Custin, political consultant

Here’s what is more than symbolic: With only six weeks left for candidates to qualify to run for mayor, Suarez has yet to draw a single credible threat to his candidacy. So far, Robert Burke, Christian Canache and Cynthia Mason Jaquith — three unknowns with a combined $92.08 in their campaign accounts — are the only other candidates to turn in paperwork.

“I think the time has passed for someone to realistically come out and challenge Francis,” said David Custin, a political consultant who worked on Suarez’s aborted 2013 mayoral campaign.

The hype is real. When Suarez appears at community events, hosts sometimes announce him as Miami’s next mayor.

But while he’s clearly considered the possibility of avoiding a drag-out campaign, he says he’s preparing for a race to Election Day, not a cake-walk.

“I don’t think about it too often. I sort of put my head down and just work, grind it out day by day,” Suarez told the Miami Herald Thursday during an interview. “I’ve been focused on the campaign. I don’t want to be presumptuous in any way. It’s a little bit early to have those kinds of discussions.”

SDF11 Suarez News rk
Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez with his son Andrew, 3, and wife Gloria Suarez after he submitted petition signatures on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, at the city clerk’s office at Miami City Hall to qualify for the November ballot as a candidate for Miami mayor. ROBERTO KOLTUN rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Suarez’s team continues to work, going door-to-door to talk to voters and spending gobs of money — nearly $1 million so far — on commercials, advertisements featuring the candidate and his family, and other campaign expenses. He knows that in politics, where the cliché is that candidates either run unopposed or run scared, a dark horse or self-funded candidate could always jump in to run against him before the Sept. 23 deadline.

“It’s not too late,” said Fernand Amandi, a pollster and political pundit who lives in the city. “In politics, six weeks is an eternity.”

Still, Amandi, who isn’t involved in any city of Miami campaigns, says a credible opponent would have to begin day one with money, name recognition and an on-point message. And other political insiders queried by the Herald say that as of mid-August, there are no rumblings about anyone mounting a run against Suarez, a Republican who officially launched his nonpartisan campaign more than a year ago.

Even in an era when local races are taking on an increasingly partisan tone, the local Democratic Party sought, but was unable to find, a serious opponent.

The lone wild card may be Frank Carollo, a cagey, term-limited Miami commissioner who while raising some campaign money has yet to say whether he’ll run for mayor. Reached by text Thursday, Carollo did nothing to quell speculation.

“There are over 6 weeks before the qualifying deadline — I will make an announcement in Sept.,” he wrote.

In the meantime, Suarez says he’ll keep running his campaign regardless of opposition. If he gets to walk the last few miles, he said he’ll be thankful.

“I don’t take it for granted. It doesn’t really diminish my effort as a campaigner or commissioner. I don’t just presume that it’s going to be that way,” he said. “If it happens, it would be wonderful, kind of a miracle.”

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