Decision 2021

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Declares Victory in Reelection Bid

Esteban Bovo elected Hialeah mayor

NBC Universal, Inc.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez quickly declared victory in his reelection bid Tuesday.

Suarez spoke at a victory party less than an hour after polls closed Tuesday night, as he had more than 78% of the vote with 123 out of 145 precincts reporting.

"My priorities are going to be what they’ve been since I started, they're going to be affordable housing, making sure we’re the most climate resilient city on the planet, making sure we have a diverse economy with high paying jobs and making sure everyone in our city occupies one of those jobs," Suarez said.

Suarez, a 44-year-old real estate attorney, faced five little-known challengers, none of whom previously held office. They were Anthony Melvin Dutrow, Marie Frantz Exantus, Mayra Joli, Max Martinez and Francisco "Frank" Pichel.

Nonetheless, Suarez's reelection campaign had 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 station in the city's Coconut Grove neighborhood.

The Miami mayoral race was nonpartisan, but Suarez is a Republican who has been critical 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 mask 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, Key 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 lack of COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s not yet clear how the push has led to migration and job creation patterns as census numbers do not yet 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 through a cryptocurrency, named MiamiCoin.

Suarez said he was not taking the race for granted — he wanted 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 earlier.

Also on Tuesday's ballot were two Miami commission races, District 3 and District 5. In District 3, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo cruised to victory with more than 60% of the vote, while Christine King claimed victory in District 5 and will replace incumbent Jeffery Watson.

There were also other mayoral races in Miami-Dade Tuesday, including in Hialeah, Sunny Isles Beach, and Homestead.

In the Hialeah mayoral race, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban Bovo beat out four other candidates.

"We feel with the city of Hialeah, the best is yet to come," Bovo said while declaring victory. "We feel that our city is ready to take off, there’s a lot of good things going on in our city as far as investments are concerned and opportunities, we want to harness all of our energy and at the same time not lose our characteristic as a city."

Controversy surrounded Bovo over the weekend, after a clash between rival campaigns were caught on camera.

"We campaign a little differently in Hialeah, passions take the better part sometimes and we’re always defending our family, we’re always going to defend what we think is right and we’re not going to apologize for that," he said.

AP and NBC 6
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