Why Miami Mayor Francis Suarez could help the GOP win the youth vote
As the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, 44, is the perfect politician for his crypto-bro, high-spending, hard-partying, tech-savvy, venture capital constituency.
Fueled by his popularity — he won his first election in 2017 by 86% and his reelection in 2021 with over 78% of the vote — Suarez’s name has also been kicked around as one of the top Republican contenders to watch in 2024 and 2028, with rumors he might join Nikki Haley’s presidential ticket should she run, or even emerge as a presidential candidate himself.
When asked what the post-Trump GOP looks like, the first generation American-turned politician (his parents both fled Cuba for Miami) speaks of a kinder, gentler Republican party.
“The post-Trump GOP needs to have aspirational, inspirational leadership,” Suarez declares, from his HQ in Coconut Grove, Fla. “To me, it looks like someone that leans into innovation. To me, it looks like someone that understands our major demographic minorities, like Hispanics.”
When asked if he sees himself in this role, Suarez said, “the idea of serving at a higher level in the future is exciting. The fact that people talk about it is exciting.
“But I don’t want to do it for the sake of doing it,” he adds. “Too many people stay in politics as a vanity project or because they want to be important. I definitely feel a desire to do more, but I’ve also been around politics my whole life. So, I know political opportunity is about timing and circumstance, as well.”
Suarez is part of the first father-and-son team to be mayor of the city of Miami. His father, Cuban-born Xavier Suarez, held that role from 1985 to 1993 and again in 1997 (although he was removed from office after the election was invalidated due to massive ballot fraud; Suarez was not implicated in the wrongdoing), as well as serving as Miami-Dade County Commissioner from 2011 to 2020.
The junior Suarez has also distinguished himself as the “first” in two other categories: The first American politician to get COVID and the first mayor to take his salary in cryptocurrency (New York City Mayor Eric Adams quickly followed suit).
“I never thought in a million years that I would be famous for getting sick,” Suarez notes of his COVID diagnosis on March 13, 2020, four days after he met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his staff. “It was hard because I didn’t know what to expect. And so, I took a chance and produced a video diary every day that I had COVID. And because I was one of the first people in Miami-Dade County to test positive, it gave people hope that you could get COVID, and it wasn’t a death sentence.”
“Unfortunately, many people did succumb to the disease, including family members of mine. But I was asymptomatic thankfully, and it led people to believe that there was going to be a large category of people that were asymptomatic, too.”
Suarez also turned COVID into an opportunity for Miami, when he asked, “How Can I Help?” in response to a December 4, 2020, tweet posed by Delian Asparouhov, who works at the Founders Fund with tech innovators Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois. The tweet said, “Ok guys hear me out, what if we move Silicon Valley to Miami?”
Everyone was surprised when the Tweet went viral, including Suarez, who has now slapped his “How Can I Help” slogan onto socks and t-shirts.
With the idea of Silicon Valley relocating to Miami seeded, Suarez next took out a billboard in San Francisco, telling anyone who wanted to move to Miami to DM him. And many have.
Miami now boasts a thriving tech and Crypto community with residents like Thiel, Rabois, Lucy Guo and more. In June 2021, he also lured the Bitcoin Conference from LA to Miami, attracting over 12,000 attendees escaping strict COVID restrictions. Just last week, the conference returned to Miami with over 50,000 pumped-up crypto enthusiasts.
“When you see elected officials in San Francisco saying, ‘F Elon Musk,’ he gets the message and leaves. That’s not the right attitude. That’s not fundamentally American. The American dream is the idea that your tomorrows are better than your yesterdays. As a first-generation American, I’m dismayed sometimes by the anti-American sentiment and divisiveness that we see in this country, because our enemies want us to be divided. We are less powerful as a country when we’re divided.”
Although the mayoral position is nonpartisan, Suarez is a Republican, who isn’t a fan of Trump’s tactics (he said he’s more of a Reagan Republican). Suarez famously didn’t vote for President Trump in 2020. “I agreed with a lot of things about the former president from a policy perspective: Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Abraham Accords, obviously the tax cut, having a strong foreign policy. From a personality perspective, that’s where I had a hard time. If you’re trying to be abrasive or trying to create conflict, I just don’t see that being healthy for America.”
He’s also clashed with Florida’s equally ambitious governor Ron DeSantis over mask mandates. The governor’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill has also deflated some of Miami’s efforts to continue to attract new residents, conventions and business opportunities, Suarez said.
“My perspective is that we don’t want little kids being taught about sexuality in the classroom,” said Suarez, who is married with two kids. “We want parents to do that. But we also want to be a country that is pro-equal rights for the LGBTQ community, which is what Miami is about. And I think whether it’s equality in housing or equality in job opportunity, the LGBTQ community is a community that is a large stakeholder in this country and deserves to be treated with respect and kindness as we do here in our city. This goes back to conflicted leadership, as opposed to persuasive leadership and aspirational leadership.”
Mayor Adams has seized on the controversy with a recent campaign to attract Floridians to the Big Apple with strategically placed billboards and social media aimed at the disheartened LGBTQ community.
“I’m not surprised,” Suarez says of the move. “The mayor and I have both taken advantage of competitive opportunities to try to attract residents. And I don’t blame him for doing the same. And I think that’s the consequences sometimes of these cultural wars that seep into economics.”
Another issue hounding Suarez is that the city’s experiment in MiamiCoin, which Suarez has been hyping since 2021, seems to be a disaster. Created by the nonprofit startup CityCoins, the municipal digital token launched in Miami in August 2021 (CityCoins debuted NYCCoin in New York last November.) The idea is that private citizens mine the coin, and 30% of the profits are donated to each city.
“The idea was good, in the sense of creating this benefit for cities,” Suarez explains, “but I think some of the execution was flawed. It’s a little too inflationary. There are 3.65 billion outstanding MiamiCoins out there, which created too much supply, which then depresses the price.” Currently MiamiCoin is worth about a quarter of a cent. The digital currency peaked at 5 cents per coin in September before flatlining at the start of 2022. Although the private sector is losing out, since its inception, the City of Miami has received $5.25 million from MiamiCoin.
As far as taking his salary in Bitcoin, that only represents a third of his income. The position is part-time, and the mayor is allowed to hold other jobs. Which Suarez does, quite lucratively as a lawyer at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP and Senior Operating Partner at private equity firm DaGrosa Capital Partners LLC. The mayoral salary of $97,000 per year is his lowest paycheck.
Suarez also serves as the President of the US Conference of Mayors. “In that role, I’m trying to create an agenda for America that is based on a set of really basic principles, like keeping taxes low and investing in police. Instead of defunding police, up-funding police or investing in police, which keeps our cities safe, which is what we’ve seen in Miami. And then leaning into innovation.”
And while, like a true politician, Suarez won’t commit to running in 2024 or 2028, he has strong ideas about what these next elections should look like: “People are thirsting for a new generation of leaders, and it remains to be seen whether 2024 will be a generational election or not. Will it be another election of Baby Boomers, or will it be a new generation of leaders?
“I see a group of voters that want to be unified, that want to be inspired, that are a bit non-traditional in their views, but are fiscally conservative. They agree on the appropriate levels of immigration that’s healthy for our economy and they want a strong foreign policy. The next candidate for president needs to understand these generational needs.”