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 GOP nomination in 2024, according to party fundraisers and donors familiar with the matter.
Suarez told reporters on Friday that he is still contemplating a run for president. Since late last year, Suarez has been privately laying the groundwork for a possible run for the White House. He’s 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 explained.
Suarez, 45, could also run for governor of Florida, a person close to the mayor told CNBC. Those who spoke to CNBC declined to be named since these discussions are private. Suarez won his first term as mayor in 2017 with 86% of the vote and was reelected in 2021 with 78% of the vote. If Suarez enters the presidential primary, he follows another popular mayor who made a longshot run for the White House.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was first elected the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with 74% of the vote in 2011. He won reelection in 2015 with more than 80% of the vote before stepping down and launching his presidential campaign and losing to President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary.
If Suarez jumped into the 2024 Republican primary for president, polls suggest he would be a major underdog contender while possibly facing a familiar face: Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. A Fox News poll taken in February shows Suarez with no support among participants when asked who they’d like to see as the Republican presidential nominee.
Former President Donald Trump, who launched his own bid for the White House, and DeSantis, led the poll with 43% and 28% of the vote, respectively. DeSantis has yet to announce a run for president. The first Republican primary debate is scheduled to take place in August in the battleground state of Wisconsin.
Days before the Fox News poll was released, Suarez was in Boston at the end of February holding 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 didn’t return a request for comment. Spokespeople for Kraft, Fink, Schwarzman and Baker, who was recently named president of the NCAA, also didn’t return requests for comment.
Kraft has been close with Trump for years, but he’s backed a mix of Democrats and Republicans, according to data from the nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets. The billionaire and New England Patriots owner was part of a group of business leaders that advised Trump on how to restart the economy in 2020 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the lunch featuring Baker, the Miami mayor noted to attendees that he’s still considering running for president and took aim at DeSantis, saying the Florida governor is all about playing politics while Suarez is about taking action for his constituents, according to those with direct knowledge of the meeting.
The apparent feud between DeSantis and Suarez could come to a head if both run for president in 2024.
The Washington Post reported in January that DeSantis and Suarez have not spoken since the mayor came down with Covid-19 in 2020. The lack of conversations between the two men came as Suarez in 2021 ripped DeSantis and leading state officials for not allowing cities like Miami to move ahead with Covid mask mandates.
Both Suarez and DeSantis are subject to term limits and cannot run for reelection. Suarez’s term ends in 2025, while DeSantis’ official last day as governor is in 2027. Florida state law disallows governors to run for reelection after consecutively winning two four-year terms. Miami mayors can only be in charge for two four-year terms.
Suarez was also in New York in February meeting with GOP donors and told some of them that he’s “seriously considering [a run for president],” according to a donor who met with Suarez. The Miami mayor will be back in New York in April holding similar meetings, the fundraisers said.
Suarez has previously met with Schwarzman and Fink, a person close to the mayor said. Blackstone and BlackRock each have offices in Miami. Representatives for both firms did not return requests for comment.
Schwarzman donated $36 million to Republican causes during the 2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets. Schwarzman, who donated millions toward trying to get Trump reelected in 2020, says he will not be helping 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 pulled $2 billion in assets managed by BlackRock as the wealth management firm conducts ESG investment practices.
Though records show Fink has given most of his campaign contributions toward Democrats, as the leader of the world’s largest asset manager, he’s worked with presidents from both parties. Fink was on Trump’s initial business council and was in regular touch with the Trump White House while the pandemic swept through the United States.