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Miami Mayor Francis Suarez suspends 2024 GOP presidential bid after failing to qualify for debate

MIAMI (AP) — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez on Tuesday suspended his bid for the presidency, dropping out of the 2024 race after failing to qualify for the first Republican debate.

The two-term mayor became the first candidate to drop out of the crowded GOP field. He launched his campaign just over two months ago as one of the last competitors to join a primary race that has so far been dominated by former President Donald Trump.

“While I have decided to suspend my campaign for President, my commitment to making this a better nation for every American remains,” he said in a statement.

He did not issue an endorsement, saying instead, “I look forward to keeping in touch with the other Republican presidential candidates and doing what I can to make sure our party puts forward a strong nominee who can inspire and unify the country, renew Americans’ trust in our institutions and in each other, and win.”

The 45-year-old Suarez was vying to become the first sitting mayor and first Latino elected president.

Suarez said in the statement that the Republican party should continue to work on including and attracting more Hispanic voters, saying Democrats have taken their vote for granted.

The son of Miami’s first Cuban-born mayor, Suarez campaigned talking up his role as the only Hispanic candidate in the race and his experience leading the world-known city of Miami, home to about 450,000 residents, and confronting crime and homelessness.

Suarez paid visits to early GOP voting states and said he could help the party further connect with Hispanics. He made a strong push to boost his donor numbers to qualify for the debate by offering people a chance to get front-row tickets to see Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi’s debut as a player for Inter Miami and promising a $20 “Bidenomics Relief Card” in return for $1 donations.

Suarez had been critical of Trump in the past and didn’t support him in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections. But earlier this year, Trump’s former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway floated Suarez’s name as a possible vice presidential pick. And in the two months he campaigned, Suarez largely avoided direct criticism of Trump when asked about the charges he faced and said he would consider pardoning him.

Suarez, meanwhile, emerged as a critic of another presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, dismissing some of the state laws he has signed on immigration as “headline grabbers” lacking in substance. He echoed Trump’s attacks, saying the governor doesn’t make eye contact and struggles with personal relationships with other politicians.

The mayor faced questions about his work for a developer who was looking to secure permits from the city after reports from the Miami Herald said the FBI was investigating those payments. The Miami-Dade County’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is reviewing the allegations with state prosecutors.

The mayor fumbled when asked in a radio show about the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim group that China has been accused of oppressing, saying “What’s a Uygher?” He later said he didn’t recognize the pronunciation.

And last week, Suarez told The Associated Press that he had qualified for last week's debate, though senior Republican National Committee advisers who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to share internal discussions said he had not met the criteria.

Candidates needed to satisfy polling and donor requirements set by the Republican National Committee: at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls and a minimum of 40,000 donors with 200 in 20 or more states.