Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami filed the paperwork for a presidential campaign on Wednesday, setting him up to join an increasingly crowded field of candidates jockeying to overtake former President Donald J. Trump for the Republican nomination.
Mr. Suarez, a 45-year-old Cuban American elected overwhelmingly twice to his post leading one of Florida’s biggest cities, is presenting himself as a fresh face for a party that has struggled in three consecutive elections as general-election voters soured on Mr. Trump. He is scheduled to give a speech on Thursday night at the Reagan Library in California.
Supporters of Mr. Suarez announced a super PAC on Wednesday in tandem with his filing, beginning with an initial “six figure” ad buy in three early-voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The committee, SOS America PAC, is starting off on solid financial footing, with almost $6 million left over from its previous iteration.
Its first ad — which opens with a sarcastic “warning” screen reading, “This video contains graphic content that liberals may find disturbing” — shows footage of violent crime and a burning police car, calling this “Joe Biden’s America” and promoting Miami’s declining violent crime rate under Mr. Suarez.
The Republican field has grown to nearly a dozen hopefuls aiming to take on the front-runner, Mr. Trump, who was charged this month in a federal case concerning classified documents. Mr. Suarez is also taking on Ron DeSantis, the governor of his home state, who has consistently been Mr. Trump’s top rival but who is also well behind in available polling.
But Mr. Suarez is little known outside his state, and he is facing emerging allegations of influence-peddling on behalf of a real estate development company.
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Mr. Suarez grew up in Miami politics, with his father, Xavier L. Suarez, serving two stints as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. The elder Mr. Suarez was later elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission, where his terms overlapped with his son’s time in office.
The younger Mr. Suarez served as a Miami city commissioner before being elected mayor in 2017 with 86 percent of the vote. In 2021, he was re-elected with 79 percent of the vote.
While the city’s voters traditionally skew Democratic in national elections, that doesn’t hold true for local elections, and the mayoral post is listed as nonpartisan on ballots.
Nobody has been elected to the White House, or even received a major party’s nomination, directly from a mayor’s office — though Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., population roughly 100,000, came closer than most in the 2020 Democratic primaries, winning Iowa and placing second in New Hampshire, but slid and dropped out before Super Tuesday.
Miami, with a population of roughly 450,000, gives Mr. Suarez a considerably larger starting point. But the Miami mayoralty is a part-time and largely ceremonial job.
Mr. Suarez can veto legislation and hire and fire the city manager, but he does not have a vote on the five-member City Commission, and in 2018, he failed to persuade voters to give him strong-mayor powers. After clashing with city commissioners, he began to turn away from day-to-day legislative matters.
Mr. Suarez’s national profile began to rise after he became one of the first elected officials to contract Covid in March 2020. He documented his illness in online videos, giving people a peek into a virus that most, at the time, knew very little about.
Later that year, when a venture capitalist floated the idea on Twitter of moving Silicon Valley to Miami, Mr. Suarez replied, “How can I help?” — a response that vaulted him into the tech scene and a broader conversation about how leaders could best market their cities.
He soon emerged as a cryptocurrency enthusiast and darling of tech workers who moved to Miami during the pandemic. Even before the crypto industry descended into crisis last year, critics accused him of being more interested in crisscrossing the country to speak at conferences than tackling the city’s most pressing issues, such as unaffordable housing.
This spring, Mr. Suarez has come under fire over reports that he was paid large sums of money by a company looking for help advancing a luxury condominium project. In a series of articles, The Miami Herald reported that Mr. Suarez had received at least $80,000 to consult for the developer, Location Ventures, and then that the developer had paid him $170,000 “to help cut through red tape and secure critical permits.”
This month, The Herald reported that the F.B.I. was investigating the developer’s hiring of Mr. Suarez.
Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.
Maggie Astor is a reporter covering live news and U.S. politics. She has also reported on climate, the coronavirus and disinformation. @MaggieAstor
Patricia Mazzei is the Miami bureau chief, covering Florida and Puerto Rico. She writes about breaking news, politics, disasters and the quirks of life in South Florida. She joined The Times in 2017 after a decade at The Miami Herald.
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