Miami’s popular Republican Mayor Francis Suarez has been privately holding court with wealthy political financiers as he considers challenging former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, according to party fundraisers and donors familiar with the matter.
Suarez told reporters Friday that he was still considering running for president. Since the end of last year, Suarez has privately set the course for a possible candidacy for the White House. He recently met with the likes of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, these people said.
Suarez, 45, could also run for Florida governor, a person close to the mayor told CNBC. Those who spoke to CNBC declined to be named because these discussions are private. Suarez won his first term as mayor in 2017 with 86% of the vote and was re-elected in 2021 with 78% of the vote. If Suarez enters the presidential primary, he will follow another popular mayor who has made it to the White House in the long run.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was first elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2011 with 74% of the vote. In 2015, he won re-election with more than 80% of the vote before resigning and starting his presidential campaign, losing to President Joe in the 2020 Democratic primary.
If Suarez got into the Republican presidential primary in 2024, according to polls, he would be a huge underdog, while potentially running into a familiar face: Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. A Fox News poll conducted in February shows Suarez has no support among respondents when asked who they would like to see as the Republican presidential nominee.
Former President Donald Trump, who published his own candidacy for the White House, and DeSantis led the poll with 43% and 28% of the vote, respectively. DeSantis has not yet announced a presidential bid. The first Republican primary debate is scheduled for August in the battleground state of Wisconsin.
Days before the Fox News poll was released, Suarez was in Boston in late February to hold meetings with the likes of Kraft. He was also part of a separate gathering with more than two dozen political heavyweights, including former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, two people with direct knowledge of the meetings said.
Suarez did not respond to a request for comment. Spokespersons for Kraft, Fink, Schwarzman and Baker, who was recently named NCAA president, also did not respond to requests for comment.
Kraft has been close to Trump for years, but supports a mix of Democrats and Republicans, according to data from bipartisan campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets. The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots was part of a group of business leaders advising Trump on how to restart the economy in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
At lunch with Baker, the Mayor of Miami remarked to attendees that he was still considering running for president and took aim at DeSantis by saying the Florida governor is all about playing politics while Suarez according to those with direct knowledge take action on behalf of its constituents of the meeting.
The apparent feud between DeSantis and Suarez could come to a head when both run for president in 2024.
The Washington Post reported in January that DeSantis and Suarez have not spoken since the mayor fell ill with Covid-19 in 2020. The lack of talks between the two men came as Suarez tore DeSantis and top state officials in 2021 for not allowing cities like Miami to proceed with Covid mask mandates.
Both Suarez and DeSantis are subject to term limits and cannot stand for re-election. Suarez’s term ends in 2025, while DeSantis’ official last day as governor is in 2027. Florida state law prohibits governors from running for re-election after winning two consecutive four-year terms. Miami mayors can only serve two four-year terms.
Suarez was also in New York in February and met with GOP donors, telling some of them that he was “seriously considering it.” [a run for president]’ according to a donor who met with Suarez. The Mayor of Miami will be back in New York in April and hold similar meetings, the fundraisers said.
Suarez previously met with Schwarzman and Fink, a person close to the mayor said. Blackstone and BlackRock each have offices in Miami. Representatives of both companies did not respond to requests for comment.
According to OpenSecrets, Schwarzman donated $36 million to Republican causes during the 2022 election cycle. Schwarzman, who has donated millions to trying to get Trump re-elected in 2020, says he will not help the former president in the 2024 GOP primary.
Fink and BlackRock have become the faces of the Republican anti-ESG movement. Under DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has divested $2 billion of assets managed by BlackRock as the asset management firm implements environmental, social and governance investment practices.
Although records show that Fink made most of his campaign contributions to the Democrats, he has worked with presidents of both parties as head of the world’s largest wealth manager. Fink served on Trump’s first business council and was in regular contact with the Trump White House as the pandemic swept through the United States.