Miami Mayor Francis Suarez hoped voters will reward his effort to market the city as a startup center as he ran for reelection Tuesday.
Suarez, a 44-year-old real estate attorney, faced five little-known challengers, none of whom before held office. They are Anthony Melvin Dutrow, Marie Frantz Exantus, Mayra Joli, Max Martinez and Francisco “Frank” Pichel.
Nonetheless, Suarez’s reelection campaign has shown that he can raise millions as he seeks to elevate his profile at a national level.
The first-term Cuban American politician has been profiled by national magazines, and he raised more than $5 million for the race, far more than he spent on the contest.
Suarez cast his ballot Tuesday morning with his wife, Gloria Fonts Suarez, and fist-bumped a pair of well-wishers during scant turnout at a polling stop in the city’s Coconut Grove neighborhood.
The Miami mayoral race is nonpartisan, but Suarez is a Republican who has been basic of former President Donald Trump and pushed back against the pandemic policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, such as his decision to prevent local communities from instituting disguise mandates.
The mayor has not ruled out White House aspirations, and next year he is set to become the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, gaining a bigger platform for people to meet him in other cities and states. Suarez likes to say the pandemic and social media have made “national mayors” stand out more, and hopes to capitalize on that to make his next move.
Suarez enjoys the name recognition he gets from leading the city of Miami, with a population of 450,000 and a $1.3 billion budget. For comparison, Miami-Dade County, which covers Miami and 33 other municipalities such as Miami Beach, meaningful Biscayne and Homestead at the edge of the Everglades, has 2.7 million people and a $9 billion budget.
In the past 10 months, Suarez has met with Big Tech players and investors such as PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who bought a house in Miami Beach. Some analysts say Suarez was smart to seize the moment when Silicon Valley and other investors were already looking at Florida for tax reasons and its without of COVID-19 restrictions.
It’s not in addition clear how the push has led to migration and job creation patterns as census numbers do not in addition include data for 2021.
But there have been announcements from companies establishing in Miami. Private equity firm Blackstone said it would create a new office downtown to expand tech capabilities. Japan’s Softbank Group is also looking to grow its presence in the city, and has invested $250 million in Miami startups. And venture capital firm Founders Fund has already set up shop in the trendy neighborhood of Wynwood.
Miami hosted a Bitcoin conference earlier this year, and started accepting funds generated by a cryptocurrency, named MiamiCoin.
Suarez says he is not taking the race for granted — he wants to replicate the results from 2017, when he won with 86% of the vote.
“If the voters of Miami reelect me, it’s because they have confidence in the four years in office, in my accomplishments and my vision,” he told The Associated Press.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot are two Miami commission races, District 3 and District 5.
There are also other mayoral races in Miami-Dade, including in Hialeah, Sunny Isles Beach, and Homestead.
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