Miami’s mayor-elect says he is staying out of a city election that could go a long way toward determining how smoothly his agenda is received by the City Commission.
But his dad isn’t.
With the Nov. 21 runoff election for District 3 commissioner just over a week away, County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, a former Miami mayor himself, is actively supporting candidate Alfonso “Alfie” Leon — or, put another way, actively opposing former mayor and longtime foe Joe Carollo.
Suarez has been helping Leon raise money and campaign for the runoff since the 32-year-old attorney came in second to Carollo in Tuesday’s general election, the results of which were confirmed Friday by an automatic recount. On Saturday, the elder Suarez hosted an event of the “ABC Committee,” with ABC standing for “Anybody But Carollo.”
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An invitation distributed online ahead of the morning gathering mentioned that Xavier Suarez was assembling a team of “key players” to court absentee ballot voters, secure endorsements from the five candidates now out of the race, find a campaign headquarters for Leon and do what it takes to keep Carollo from returning to office.
“Please extend this invitation to others — please share far and wide,” read a message posted on Facebook.
The event was held in a Silver Bluff duplex owned by Maria Haramboure, whose daughter once worked as an office aide for the mayor-elect.
I have to get along with whoever gets elected.
Mayor-elect Francis Suarez
Reached by phone, Xavier Suarez said he called the event to help introduce Leon to new people. He has not been shy about his distaste for Carollo, telling a reporter earlier in the week that his opposition to the former mayor “goes back to 1987” when the two men were political opponents. Infamously, the elder Suarez beat Carollo in the 1997 mayor’s race only to have a judge overturn the results amid evidence of absentee ballot fraud (Suarez was found by a judge to have been unaware of illegal activity) and then see a judicial panel place Carollo in the seat the next year.
“I’m encouraging people [to support Leon],” Suarez said of Saturday’s gathering. “They met the candidate. That’s it.”
Ron Sadaka, a senior advisor at Fausto Commercial Realty who posted the invitation for Saturday’s gathering on Facebook, said between 50 and 60 people attended. The invitation mentioned that Coral Gables Commissioner and longtime Leon supporter Vince Lago is involved, as is lobbyist Brian May, although Suarez and May said Saturday that the Floridian Partners lobbyist is not a part of the effort.
My opposition to Mr. Carollo is well-known. That goes back to 1987.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” Suarez said. In an earlier conversation with a reporter, he said Mayor-elect Francis Suarez is staying out of the election but declined to say Saturday if his son had asked him to also remain neutral.
“That’s between us,” he said.
In Miami, where the mayor doesn’t have a vote on the City Commission and needs three votes to push legislation, contracts and budgetary issues, many political insiders believe that the incoming mayor should pull for Leon considering Carollo’s big personality, sharp-edged politics and stated mission of shaking things up at City Hall. WPLG political reporter Michael Putney referred to Carollo Sunday on “This Week in South Florida” as a “famously disruptive figure.” Lago, the Coral Gables commissioner, told attendees at a Friday morning Leon fundraiser at the Biltmore that it’s important for Suarez to be able to work with a “collegial” City Commission.
Suarez, who received more than 85 percent of the vote for mayor, has the popularity and resources to make a difference in the race. His political committee still had more than $1 million to spend at the beginning of the month.
But Mayor-elect Suarez maintains a working relationship with Carollo despite the animosity between his father and the former mayor (the two talked on election day) and has told the Miami Herald that he’s “staying neutral as of right now.”
“I have to get along with whoever gets elected,” Suarez told Putney on Sunday’s episode of “This Week in South Florida.”
Carollo told the Miami Herald that he is taking the mayor-elect at his word. But he didn’t hold his tongue about those supporting Leon — including the mayor’s dad.
“He’s having the worst influence peddlers in Miami come to his aid,” Carollo said. “Joe Carollo is not good for business for those who think that the city of Miami is one big piñata for them to fill their pocketbooks.”