The City of Miami elects a new mayor on November 7, 2017. Despite the fact that there are several people on the ballot, the race has not been at all competitive and City Commissioner Francis X. Suarez is widely expected to win.
Suarez is the son of former mayor and current Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, whose colorful last few months as mayor in the 1990s earned national media attention.
In addition to the name recognition, Suarez has far outpaced his rivals in fundraising, raising a hefty seven figures compared to his opponents’ two.
Here’s what you need to know about Francis X. Suarez:
1. Suarez Has No Serious Opponents & Is Expected to Easily Win the Election
Suarez has raised a record $3 million in campaign funds—the bulk of which has gone largely untouched, as Suarez has not had any serious opponents to campaign against.
At the September filing deadline, each of the three people who filed to run against Suarez had about $50 in their campaign against; Suarez already had millions.
Suarez’s campaign slogan even embodies apparently not-undue optimism. Posters with his campaign slogans, “the next mayor of Miami” and “el próximo alcalde de Miami,” have littered the city for months. Media outlets have all but called the race for Suarez, citing his lack of serious opponents. “He’s a lock,” said the Miami Herald.
“I’ve run unopposed [for reelection] a couple of times, in 2011 and 2015. That’s something I’m proud of. It really does speak to the work I’ve done and the lessons I’ve learned,” Suarez said at the filing deadline.
2. He Is the Son of Three-Term Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, Who Was Known First As “Mayor Pothole” & Later As “Mayor Loco”
Suarez’s father, Xavier Suarez, was thrice elected mayor in Miami. He defeated billionaire Raul Masvidal in 1985 by a margin of over 14 percent, becoming the city’s first Cuban-born mayor. Xavier won a second two-year term in 1987, then to a four-year term in 1989 after the city changed its laws to extend the mayor’s terms.
An engineer and Harvard-educated lawyer, Xavier worked hard to transform the city from its image as a city riddled with drug crime and only equipped with a single police station, to the capital of the Caribbean that he envisioned. Under his watch, the city build 15 more police stations and 1,500 units of affordable housing. His hands-on approach to the city earned him the nickname “Mayor Pothole.”
“Miami is a very different place today than it was in 1985,” he said in 1993. “This is a city that is just hitting its stride now.”
But he ultimately decided not to run for a fourth term in 1993 (the city had yet to impose term limits on the office), complaining that the position was primarily titular. “I have tried to act like a strong mayor, but this is the office of a weak mayor,” he said at City Hall upon announcing his decision. “I can`t even give my assistant a raise unless the city manager signs off on it.”
Regardless, Xavier missed his position enough to run for mayor again in 1997. He served in the position for a just 111 days before a judge threw out fraudulent absentee ballots from long-dead Miami residents that had been cast in Xavier’s favor (no charges were ever filed). But his time in office was memorable, nonetheless, and “Mayor Pothole” began to give way to “Mayor Loco.”
In December 1997, Xavier showed up at the doorstep of 68-year-old woman in Little Havana to argue about an angry letter she sent him, but was scared off when she brandished a .38 handgun. Weeks later, he publicly and repeatedly called a Polish-American state senator “Senator Cabbage,” and wrote the governor a letter inquiring about his daughter’s abortion.
“Another chaotic week ends, leaving Miamians to wonder how long before the white-suited men with butterfly nets come to take the mayor away,” wrote columnist Carl Hiaasen, whom Xavier later unsuccessfully sued for libel.
“Was I quirky? Did I do some odd things? I’ll tell you right now, yes. But everybody can find odd incidents in their lives,” Xavier told Miami New Times in 2004 prior to the self-publication of his masterpiece, A Unified Theory of God, Mind & Matter.
These days, he serves as a commissioner for Miami-Dade County’s District 7.
3. An Attorney & Real Estate Broker, Suarez Has Served on the Miami City Commission Since 2009
Suarez earned an undergraduate degree in finance from Florida International University, then, like his father before him, headed to law school. He graduated from the University of Florida with a juris doctor in 2004.
He is currently of counsel at the law firm of Carlton Fields, which describes him as a “transactional lawyer with more than 13 years of experience in real estate and corporate finance.”
Additionally, Suarez is the CEO and founder of Edge Title Company, an “attorney owned title services company that serves mortgage brokers/lenders, realtors, developers, sellers, and buyers” that has five employees, according to Linkedin.
In 2009, he won election to serve District 4 on the Miami City Commission, filling a seat vacated by Tomás Regalado, who had just won election as mayor. Suarez won a full term in 2011, and was re-elected to his second (and last) full term in 2015.
On the commission, he holds the leadership positions of vice-chair of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization and president of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities. According to his official biography, his priorities include “affordable housing, tackling the poverty pandemic and, as a corollary, reducing crime.”
4. Suarez Ran for Mayor in 2013 but Ended His Campaign After a Campaign Staffers Were Indicted for Ballot Fraud
Suarez previously made a bid for the mayorship in 2013, but ultimately withdrew from the race after a series of scandals involving his campaign, including a police investigation into absentee ballot fraud—charges that were hauntingly similar to those that led to the nullification of Xavier Suarez’s 1997 election win.
His campaign first came under fire after holding an event at which Suarez said campaign staffers Juan Pablo Baggini and the commissioner’s cousin, Esteban Suarez, obtained permission from about 20 young voters to register them for absentee ballots.
“We are confident that all of the different absentee ballot request forms were requested individually by people voluntarily and of their own volition,” Suarez said at the time. But in Florida, registering for an absentee ballot on behalf of a non-family member can be a third-degree felony—a law that was enacted after the fallout of his father’s 1997 campaign.
Baggini and Esteban Suarez’s homes were raided by police as part of an ongoing investigation into ballot fraud that had centered around U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s 2012 campaign. Both pleaded no-contest to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to one year of probation. State prosecutors also alleged that the two men had paid two women to allow them to register absentee ballots in their name.
Suarez himself was cleared of involvement, but bowed out of the mayor’s race less than two months later, citing a poorly run campaign and his newly-pregnant wife as his primary motivators. “A lot of it is mistakes we made, and I’ve learned from it,” he said at the time.
5. He Is Married to Gloria Fonts Suarez & the Couple Have a 3-Year-Old Son, Andrew
Suarez and his wife, Gloria Fonts Suarez, have been married for ten years. The two have a three-year-old son, Andrew. Suarez cited his wife’s pregnancy as one of the reasons for ending his 2013 mayoral campaign; Gloria was three months pregnant at the time and the couple had been trying for children for years.
Gloria is an event planner and co-founder of Cymbidium Events. She previously worked as the catering sales manager at the Biltmore Hotel and was also on staff at The Four Season Miami.