Aug 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Miami mayor eyes White House

Francis Suarez

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's political operation is making subtle but significant moves toward a potential White House run, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: A presidential bid by Suarez, a Republican, would test his party's acceptance of internal dissent: he's publicly criticized both former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered the two clear favorites for the 2024 nomination.

  • Suarez is nonetheless considered a rising political star who's overseen the ascendance of one of America's fastest-growing and most dynamic cities.
  • He currently serves as president of the United States Conference of Mayors, which represents over 1,400 cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

Driving the news: Suarez and his political team are now looking to take that brand national — and, specifically, to states crucial for any presidential aspirant.

  • In January, a handful of his political consultants formed a group called Agenda for America.
  • In May, the group began running digital ads targeting Facebook and Instagram users in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to Meta advertising data.
  • The ads touch on high-profile national issues central to the current GOP messaging, with hits on "Bidenflation," education policy, immigration and crime.

In April, Suarez filed paperwork with city officials disclosing his intention to raise money for Agenda for America.

  • The group's president, Jesse Manzano-Plaza, is a top Suarez political adviser.
  • Its directors include J.P. Chavez, who co-founded a Miami consulting firm with Suarez policy adviser Carlos Curbelo, a former Florida congressman.
  • Also raising money for the group is Brian Goldmeier, a Suarez campaign fundraiser.

What they're saying: "Agenda for America was created earlier this year to promote the discussion and exchange of ideas on issues related to embracing technology and the economy of the future, keeping taxes low, developing resilient cities, and funding police to keep our cities safe," Manzano-Plaza told Axios in a statement.

Be smart: The amounts Agenda for America has spent on ads are small — just over $8,000 on Facebook and Instagram so far — but nonetheless signal Suarez is eyeing higher office.

Between the lines: Suarez, the son of Miami's first Cuban-born mayor, has received national attention as the GOP looks to build on recent gains among Latino voters and recapture some urban support.

  • But he's also publicly broken with key GOP leaders, not least Trump and DeSantis, whom Suarez has said he voted against in 2018.
  • "We have different perspectives and different personalities and different philosophies in terms of our leadership style," Suarez said of DeSantis in an interview last month, while noting the two "have spoken on a variety of occasions."
  • "I lead ... arguably the largest urban city in the state. And his mandate is significantly greater in terms of number, but it's also very different in terms of cities and rural areas."
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