Francis X. Suarez, the two-term mayor of Miami who formally announced his entry into the 2024 presidential race on Thursday, is presenting himself as a fresh face for the Republican Party: a 45-year-old in a field led by a septuagenarian, and a Cuban American in a party whose elected officials are overwhelmingly white.
In a speech at the Reagan Library in California on Thursday evening, brimming with callbacks to decades-old Republican catchphrases like George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light,” Mr. Suarez declared his candidacy with a reference to one more — and to his own catchphrase from a Twitter post he made in 2021 in response to a venture capitalist who suggested moving Silicon Valley to Miami.
“I believe America is still a shining city on a hill whose eyes of the world are upon us and whose promise needs to be restored,” he said, a day after filing paperwork for his run. “And I believe the city needs more than a shouter or a fighter. I believe it needs a servant. It needs a mayor. My name is Francis Suarez, and I am here to help.”
Here are five things to know about Mr. Suarez.
His current job is largely ceremonial.
Mr. Suarez was elected as mayor in 2017 with 86 percent of the vote and re-elected in 2021 with 79 percent of the vote — striking margins made possible by the fact that he faced only token opposition. (Miami’s mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan.)
He will be running largely on his mayoral experience, since the only other elected office he has held was on the City Commission, not a job known for kick-starting presidential campaigns. But the Miami mayoralty is part time and largely ceremonial.
Mr. Suarez’s main powers are vetoing legislation and hiring and firing the city manager. He does not have a vote on the City Commission. Shortly after taking office, he put forward a proposal to give himself more power, including authority over Miami’s budget and work force, but voters soundly rejected it.
This distinguishes Mr. Suarez from other sitting or former mayors who have run for president, who already faced long odds. The three who ran prominent campaigns for the Democratic nomination in 2020 — Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio of New York City — had more authority than Mr. Suarez does.
He is enthusiastic about Silicon Valley and cryptocurrency.
In 2021, Mr. Suarez drew headlines for announcing that he would take his salary in Bitcoin and for suggesting that Miami pay city workers, accept tax payments and invest public funds in Bitcoin, too.
He praised a deal in which the cryptocurrency exchange FTX — founded by the now-disgraced Sam Bankman-Fried — acquired naming rights to Miami’s N.B.A. arena. (The deal was terminated this year after FTX collapsed.)
He also promoted a branded cryptocurrency called MiamiCoin. Part of the proceeds went into city coffers, and Mr. Suarez suggested it could eventually allow Miami to eliminate taxes. The initial results were promising, but the currency’s value soon plummeted, and the exchange that had hosted it suspended trading of MiamiCoin this year.
Mr. Suarez continued to support cryptocurrency even as the industry crashed last year. “I call them tsunamis of opportunity,” he told The Washington Post. “And we have two options. We can take out a surfboard and surf the wave like a tsunami. Or we can hide and try to run from it and pretend it’s not there and potentially get washed away.”
He has been accused of influence peddling.
Mr. Suarez has come under fire over reports that he was paid tens of thousands of dollars by a company looking for help advancing a luxury condominium project.
The Miami Herald reported last month that a developer, Location Ventures, had paid Mr. Suarez — who is a real estate lawyer — at least $170,000 to consult for it and “to help cut through red tape and secure critical permits.” This month, The Herald reported that the F.B.I. was investigating “whether the payments constitute bribes in exchange for securing permits or other favors from the mayor” for a project in the Coconut Grove neighborhood.
Mr. Suarez has denied wrongdoing and dismissed The Herald’s reporting as a product of political bias. In an interview on Fox News a few days before he announced his campaign, he suggested that his moves toward a presidential run had motivated journalists to attack him after “an unblemished 13 years in public service.”
He has sometimes bucked the Republican line.
Mr. Suarez did not vote for Donald J. Trump’s re-election as president in 2020. Nor did he vote for Ron DeSantis for Florida governor in 2018; he voted for Mr. DeSantis’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, and said he supported Mr. Gillum’s calls for a higher minimum wage because a “basic standard of living” was “a fundamental human right.”
In early 2021, he criticized Mr. DeSantis for forbidding local leaders to enforce mask mandates as Covid-19 cases surged, telling CBS News that he had tried unsuccessfully to reach Mr. DeSantis and persuade him to let officials “institute things that we think are common-sense, that we think are backed up by science, that we can demonstrate are backed up by science.”
And two years earlier, he co-wrote a New York Times opinion essay with Ban Ki-moon, the former secretary general of the United Nations, emphasizing the damage climate change was already doing in Miami. “There isn’t a single aspect of our daily lives that isn’t affected by climate change,” he and Mr. Ban wrote.
He opposed Trump in 2020, but defends him now.
When other Republicans have changed their minds about Mr. Trump, it has generally been to oppose him after previously supporting him, à la Chris Christie. Mr. Suarez has gone in the opposite direction: Though he did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2020, he has said he will in 2024 if Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee.
He told Fox News this month that he was motivated by “a fear of Joe Biden’s America.”
“It’s an America where the poor get poorer, it’s an America where America gets weaker, and it’s an America where the possibility of China being the lone superpower is something that frightens me to no end,” he said.
“What has changed and what has happened is we’ve gotten a taste of what a dysfunctional government can do to destroy our country in a short period of time,” Mr. Suarez added, “and if you take that out into the future, it is incredibly scary.”
When Mr. Trump was indicted in New York this year, Mr. Suarez told The Miami Herald that he saw the Manhattan district attorney’s decision to pursue the case as “a slippery slope.” After Mr. Trump’s second indictment this month, he went further, saying in the Fox News interview that it “feels un-American.”
Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.