It’s official: Florida will see a trifecta of Republicans running for president in 2024

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has now filed paperwork with the FEC; He joins Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in the race

By: - June 14, 2023 6:39 pm

Miami Mayor Francis Xavier Suarez speaks June 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of SOS America PAC)

Florida will now have three GOP candidates running for the Republican nomination for president — quite a historic event for the Sunshine State.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday afternoon, officially entering the 2024 presidential campaign. The filing came just hours after a super PAC backing his candidacy for president unveiled a website and a two-minute campaign-style video touting his candidacy for the White House.

Both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump campaigned in Iowa in June. (Photos by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch and Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Suarez now joins fellow Floridians Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in competing to challenge Democratic incumbent Joe Biden next year in the race for the White House.

While it’s extremely rare for one state to have three candidates running for high office, it’s happened as recently as the last presidential election cycle in 2019-2020. That’s when there were three Democrats from New York running for the 2020 presidential nomination: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; then-NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

In the last competitive election for the GOP nomination for president in 2015-2016, Florida had two major candidates in the race: former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Bush dropped out of the race after losing in South Carolina in early February of 2016 and Rubio dropped out after winning just one out of 67 counties in the Florida Republican primary election in March of 2016.

GOP and leadership

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler says that having three Republicans from Florida running for president is a reflection of how the rest of the national party looks at the Sunshine State as a place for leadership.

“We’ve really set that standard here and that’s why you’ve seen so many people – we’re the leader in net migration over the last couple of years since COVID – you’re seeing them flee to our state…you’re seeing our voter registration numbers through the roof,” Ziegler told Florida Phoenix last week.

“You’re seeing the governor win not by a couple of points, but by 19.4 percent [in 2022]. Across the board, what’s that doing is it’s creating this conservative culture in Florida that is not only attracting more and more conservatives to move here, but also to pay attention to here. And so I’m not shocked that Florida has multiple people (running).”

There are currently 472,780 more Republicans than Democrats in Florida, as of April 30. In terms of party registration breakdown, there are 36.7% Republicans, 33.4% Democrats, and 28% Non-Party-Affiliated voters.

While Ziegler is touting the state as a utopia for conservatives, progressives say it’s become a nightmare under DeSantis. No fewer than three organizations — the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Human Rights Campaign – have all issued travel advisories recently, citing legislation targeting the trans community, the immigrant community and people of color regarding the state’s “open hostility” towards those communities.

What will Suarez do?

Suarez, an attorney, is considered a long shot candidate to vie for the nomination. The 45-year-old Cuban-American is serving his second term as mayor of Miami, having been reelected in 2021 with nearly 79% of the vote, according to biographical information from the Miami government website.

He comes from a political family, as his father is Xavier Suarez, who was a former mayor of Miami, according to the bio information.

A political moderate, Suarez voted for Democrat Andrew Gillum over Republican Ron DeSantis in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election. In addition, Insider wrote that Suarez voted for DeSantis over Democrat Charlie Crist for governor last year because “he was the better candidate.”

University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett, who wrote to the Phoenix in an email, said: “It has been my experience observing presidential candidates for more than 40 years that most of them get in the race actually thinking they can win if the right set of circumstances occur [despite the fact that most rational political analysts give them virtually no chance and despite the fact that in their heart of hearts the candidates themselves know they are longshots].”

Jewett added: “Sometimes candidates get in the race to really push a certain issue or set of issues – that does not seem to be the case with Suarez,” Jewett said. “On the other hand, it is likely that Mayor Suarez realizes that his chances of winning are very slim and so likely he has some additional motives for running – like setting himself up as a possible VP candidate or just raising his profile for a future state race in FL or getting Miami voters distracted from some other potential legal or ethical problems that may be swirling around.”

Suarez has come under scrutiny in the past month regarding allegations reported in the Miami Herald that he was paid thousands of dollars for his work as a consultant for a developer building a $70 million development in the Coconut Grove area of Miami. That has spurred an investigation by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, and the company that paid him is now under investigation by the FBI.

Suarez dismissed the allegations in an interview on Fox News Sunday last weekend, criticizing the Herald by saying that just “a few weeks before I make a big announcement, all of a sudden they’re throwing up a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks. It’s an unfortunate part of the business. It’s why good people decide often times not to serve and as a society we have to find a way to reinstitute trust into our institutions.”

Speculation and money?

There has been speculation that Suarez could not run on the same ticket as Trump because the two hail from the same state.  But there’s actually nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits that from happening. That’s according to Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner, who wrote in an op-ed in the Palm Beach Post in 2021 that the confusion comes from a misinterpretation of the Constitution.

“There actually is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prevents candidates for President and Vice President who live in the same state from running together,” Wagner wrote. “As a practical matter, it might be a bad idea, since presidential tickets are often put together to create geographic diversity. But, having two from the same state is permissible.”

Suarez does currently have a state political action committee, Miami For Everyone, that is registered with the state’s Division of Elections website.

It has over $5 million in it, including a $1 million contribution in March from Republican megadonor Ken Griffin, the CEO of the hedge fund Citadel. That’s the same Ken Griffin who previously contributed $5 million to DeSantis re-election political action committee in 2022.

Suarez also has a federal PAC, now called SOS America PAC, which reported having $5.8 million cash-on-hand at the end of last year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Meanwhile, DeSantis just got a stash of $82.5 million for his presidential campaign, related to campaign finance maneuvers.

It’s not clear on how much Trump has amassed, but he did raise more than $2 million Tuesday evening in New Jersey, after he was arraigned in Miami over criminal charges.

This story was originally published by Florida Phoenix, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry is a reporter for Florida Phoenix. He has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.