- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez voted for DeSantis for governor after supporting his challenger in 2018.
- He said DeSantis was the “better candidate” for governor but added, “we have very different styles.”
- Both Republicans are considered to be weighing a 2024 presidential run.
MIAMI, FL — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ victory in Miami-Dade County included support from at least one high-profile politician who didn’t vote for him four years ago: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
In 2018, Suarez, a Republican, voted for DeSantis’ Democratic challenger, then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. That race was close, with DeSantis winning by roughly 33,000 votes. In 2022, DeSantis won Florida by a historic landslide of 1.5 million votes.
Suarez and DeSantis haven’t always agreed, including on COVID-19 mitigation policies. Despite this, Suarez supported DeSantis over his Democratic challenger, former Rep. Charlie Crist, on Election Day.
“He was the better candidate,” Suarez said of DeSantis on Wednesday, during an interview with Insider at City Hall in Coconut Grove. “We have a professional relationship and I respect him as our governor. I’m always willing to work with him on things that we agree on.
“We have very different styles,” he added.
Suarez said he was not surprised that Miami-Dade turned red in 2022 because it was already trending in that direction and “there’s a high amount of independence” in the county. People who moved to Florida from blue states also seem to have voted Republican, he said.
“They basically were fleeing what they felt were failed policies to come to a place where they were not going to re-implement those policies,” he said.
Both Suarez, 45, and DeSantis, 44, are widely viewed to be mulling a bid for the 2024 GOP nomination, in which only former President Trump has made his race official so far. Suarez’s role as mayor is considered to be nonpartisan, and he didn’t support Trump for president in 2020 — though he told Punchbowl News in October that the former president had been kind to him.
Suarez has been forthcoming about certain areas in which he and DeSantis disagree. He said on CBS in January 2021 that he thought localities should be able to implement their own COVID-19 mitigation policies — at a time when DeSantis blocked them from doing so.
Suarez raised this point again on Wednesday, saying, “I felt he was initially very much in favor of local control, which is kind of a Republican principle.”
“It’s hard to paint a whole state like Florida with one brush,” he said.
Asked about the mayor’s comments, the governor’s office acknowledged that initially DeSantis did allow local officials to set policies, but then restrictions kept mounting. Part of the state’s job is to protect individual freedoms, DeSantis has said of his governing philosophy.
During the interview, Suarez wouldn’t comment directly on DeSantis’ December request — which the state Supreme Court accepted — to have a grand jury scrutinize pharmaceutical companies’ actions around COVID-19 vaccines.
“Ask him,” Suarez said, though he added that the governor had been “pro-vaccine,” alluding to how DeSantis promoted COVID shots in Florida before becoming more openly skeptical.
Asked to respond, DeSantis’ office said that the comment “lacks nuance” given that the governor prioritized COVID-19 vaccines for seniors and never supported vaccine mandates. DeSantis also advised against COVID-19 vaccines for minors, which clashed with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
Suarez is of Cuban descent and is head of the National Conference of Mayors. He has been getting national attention given the surge of people and tech companies moving to Florida, particularly to Miami.
“I don’t blame people for wanting to take advantage of that as their success story,” Suarez said of “Florida people” who credited their policies in the state for the mass migration. Suarez refused to name names even when pressed, but DeSantis ran an ad during his 2022 gubernatorial campaign that featured New Yorkers who’d moved to Florida. Miami specifically, Suarez said, was leading the way ahead of other Florida cities.
“This is the epicenter of everything that’s happening, and it’s something that we all created as a community,” he said.
Florida could end up sending multiple candidates into the White House field. Suarez told Punchbowl News in October that he’d consider a presidential run, but told Insider on Wednesday that he wasn’t close to making a decision.
“It’s a multifaceted, intense due-diligence process,” he said. “So that’s not something that I foresee finishing in the next couple of months, I think that’s going to take some time.”