Miami commissioner drops out of mayoral race
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Surrounded by family and friends outside his home, embattled Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez announced Tuesday he is pulling out of the mayoral race for the City of Miami.
"I decided that I want to remain in my City of Miami commission seat and not seek the mayoralty this November," Suarez said as his wife Gloria stood by his side.
The announcement comes on the heels of what the candidate himself concedes were several high-profile missteps on the campaign trail. "I've learned from some of the mistakes that I've made," he said. "One thing kind of stacked up against the other."
Earlier this summer, Suarez hesitated to fire assistant Christina Ham after she tweeted less than flattering comments on his constituents. Her tweet read, "Dear constituents....PLEASE GET A LIFE, A HOBBY, A LOBOTOMY ... whatever."
"I probably would have taken a little bit more time to know all the facts when making my decision," said Suarez during his news conference when he was asked about Ham's comments. "I instinctively wanted to forgive her, because she was an exemplary employee."
Suarez also drew fire from law enforcement officials when he tweeted his support for the family of Israel Hernandez, the graffiti artist who died after he was Tased by Miami Beach Police officers. "I just thought it was [in] extremely, extremely poor taste," said Sgt. Javier Ortiz, the vice president of Miami's Fraternal Order of Police.
When asked about that tweet, Suarez said social media is a relatively new tool in politics. "Social media is a new dynamic in politics," he said. "It was something I was hoping would be a benefit, and I think it was benefit in my campaign, but it was also a detriment."
In addition, the commissioner's cousin, Steve Suarez, was accused of improperly submitting absentee ballot requests online, a misdemeanor that triggered an investigation by the State Attorney's Office. "You pride yourself on being an ethical public official, and something like this happens that's unfortunate, but again, it was a learning experience," said Francis Suarez.
Suarez claims there was no wrongdoing, and his cousin pleaded no contest.
Suarez said the deciding factor behind his campaign withdrawal was personal: He and Gloria are expecting a baby. "I was just afraid that the negativity would continue to put pressure on my family in a way that wouldn't be helpful to our joyful blessing," he said.
Suarez, widely considered the most high-profile candidate to run against incumbent Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, said he informed his opponent about his decision in person. He said their conversation was cordial.
Suarez said he is currently seeking legal counsel to figure out what to do about his campaign donations. He said he had amassed a campaign war chest of nearly $1 million.
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