There is good news and bad news for City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez: his wife is pregnant, but he won't be elected Miami's next Mayor.
Suarez announced Monday night in a hastily assembled press conference at his home that he will quit his well-financed campaign to oust once-vulnerable Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
"This is a very personal decision. My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for the past four years," Suarez said, according to the Miami Herald. "It was a concern to me that the negativity [in the campaign] would become an issue for my family."
But stumbles in recent weeks had also raised doubts about the maturity of the Suarez campaign even as the 35-year-old billed himself as a forward-thinking, social media-savvy alternative to Regalado, a wily veteran of local politics. After a police raid on the home of Suarez operations manager Juan Pablo Baggini, both Baggini and volunteer campaign manager Esteban "Steve" Suarez, the candidate's cousin, pled no contest last week for illegally submitting absentee ballot requests and will serve up to a year probation.
It was a less sophisticated episode of absentee ballot fraud than Miami residents have seen before, but neither did the pair's apparent lack of intention inspire confidence. Frank Prieto, Suarez's own attorney, told the Herald it was "naiveté" and a "lack of political acumen" that led the men to submit the forms themselves electronically.
“It’s very hard when you have prided yourself on being an ethical public official and when something like this happens," Suarez told assembled media Monday night. "It’s unfortunate, but it’s a learning experience and something I’ll grow from and I’ll have an opportunity, God willing, maybe in a different moment to try this again."
The Suarez campaign also made headlines when earlier this month a staffer was found to have sent a number of tweets complaining about constituents. After announcing he would not dismiss 24-year-old Christina Haramboure over the tweets, which suggested residents should get "a lobotomy," Suarez fired her the next day.
He faced criticism again when a social media campaign ad used the tragic death of Israel Hernandez, a teenage artist who died after being tasered by police in the city of Miami Beach, to attack Regalado. The message prompted a scathing missive from the Miami police union.
"One thing kind of stacked up against the other, you know, and it put a lot of pressure on my family," Suarez acknowledged Monday night, adding that "social media is a new dynamic in politics. It was something that I was hoping would be a benefit and I think it was in many ways a benefit in my campaign, but it was also a detriment."
The resignation is a previously unforeseen end to Suarez's financially blessed campaign. The son of a former Miami Mayor, Suarez bested Regalado in personal campaign donations and was sitting on an additional $824,212 raised by a supportive Electioneering Communications Organization, according to Miami New Times.
Political pollster Fernand Amandi told the Herald it was too soon to discount Suarez for good -- especially in Miami-Dade, where politicians have suffered and survived far worse scandals.
"It’s difficult to present the image of new leadership for the new Miami when your campaign is accused of engaging in the same old tactics," Amandi said. "Mr. Suarez is still young, and he has an opportunity to still address some of these challenges and perhaps correct them, and one day in the future run again. In Miami, there are no second chapters; there are 10th and 11th chapters."
That may now be true of Regalado, who despite troubles of his own escapes what was expected to be a tight race to stand virtually unopposed.
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