Suarez, who is vying to become the first sitting mayor elected president, joins a GOP primary fight that includes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Despite a double-digit field of candidates, the race is widely seen as a two-man contest between Trump and DeSantis.
But the other contenders are hoping for an opening, which Trump has provided with his myriad of legal vulnerabilities — none more serious than his federal indictment for mishandling sensitive documents and refusing to return them. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Miami to 37 counts.
Suarez said he did not support Trump in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections, instead writing on behalf of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Vice President Pence. In 2018, Suarez publicly condemned Trump after reports surfaced that he questioned why the United States would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shitty countries" in Africa.
But times have changed, with Trump advisers now praising Suarez's work and helping him promote what he calls "the Miami success story." Trump's former White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, even offered Suarez's name as a possible vice-presidential pick.
Suarez, who is married with two young children, is a corporate and real estate attorney who previously served as Miami city commissioner. He has also positioned himself as someone who can help the party connect more with Hispanics. In recent months, he has made visits to early GOP voting states as he considers a possible 2024 campaign.
He is more moderate than DeSantis and Trump, but has carefully threaded the needle on cultural issues that have become popular among GOP politicians.
Suarez criticized DeSantis, dismissing some of the state immigration laws he signed as "headlines" lacking in substance. He said immigration is an issue that "demands a national solution" at a time when many Republicans support hardline policies.
The two-term mayor has previously voiced support for a Florida law championed by DeSantis and dubbed 'Don't Say Gay' that bans classroom teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through ninth grade. year, but he did not say whether he supported expanding the policy at all ranks. Like other Republicans, Suarez criticized DeSantis' feud with Disney over the same law, saying it felt like a "personal vendetta."
Going even further with Team Trump, Suarez echoed Trump's attacks on DeSantis' behavior, saying the governor doesn't make eye contact and struggles with personal relationships with other politicians.
In 2020, the mayor played to attract tech companies to Florida after the state eased its COVID-19 restrictions. He met Big Tech players and investors such as PayPal founder Peter Thiel and tech mogul Marcelo Claure, began appearing on national television, and was featured by magazines.
Suarez, who said he takes his salary in Bitcoin, also hosted Bitcoin conferences and began heavily promoting a cryptocurrency project named Miami Coin, created by a group called City Coins.
But the hype died down as virus restrictions eased elsewhere, wiping out Miami's advantage on the COVID-19 front. Suarez's vision also ran into hurdles with the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which was set to move its US headquarters to Miami's financial district before its founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the US. Bahamas last December.
The only cryptocurrency exchange that traded Miami Coin suspended its exchange, citing liquidity issues, failing to deliver on its promise to generate enough money to eliminate municipal taxes.
Miami also ranks among the worst major US cities for income inequality and is one of the nation's most unaffordable cities for housing.
Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press