The Candidate

Xavier Suarez on the campaign trail: A pair of fifteen-dollar shoes and cures for all Miami's ills

A passerby asks for four autographed pamphlets to hand out to friends. An elderly woman catches sight of Suarez from across the street and comes over to boast that she's related to the last girlfriend Suarez dated before he married Rita, his wife of twenty years. "Silveria," he inscribes on the glossy flyer, "I need your vote."

He moves on, his step lighter than when he first began his march. "The one good thing, aside from the politics, is the sun, the weather, being outdoors and everything, meeting people," he says. "It's good for the soul, you know."

Slipping conspiratorially off the record, he whispers some radical plans to eliminate Miami's debt. He'd reveal the details publicly, he says, "but it would appear to be an act of demagoguery, and I don't want to appear to be a demagogue. That's the last thing this city needs right now." Without divulging specifics, he says he anticipates transforming Miami's "junk" bond rating into an unprecedented custom rating that's "better than A+++." Everybody's taxes would drop. All on a timetable that would make Lee Iacocca blanch.

"And then we'll combat the oversight board!" Suarez cries, slapping his hand down on his interlocutor's shoulder. "I'm telling you, this is like a second lease on life," he exclaims. "That's the one question nobody's asked me yet: How does it feel to be back in power almost?"

And with that the candidate is off in search of another vote. He finds a family playing Wiffle ball in their front yard, the father pitching to a young girl who has not yet mastered a smooth swing, while her brother, wearing a pinstripe Marlins jersey, heckles from the front porch. When the girl swings and misses a fat pitch, Suarez scampers across the lawn to retrieve the plastic ball. Tossing it back to the father, the former mayor crouches like a catcher and calls for a strike.

The family accepts Suarez immediately. One of the registered voters at this address, a matronly looking woman on the porch, boasts that she's voted in every single election since receiving her citizenship years ago. The father explains that he's from the Northeast, and that he played basketball. "I played in New Jersey," the man offers. "I could jump 48 inches. I used to jump across floors."

Suarez, a basketball zealot, knows his leapers. "The greatest is Karch Kiraly," he says, appraising the legendary thrust of the Olympic volleyball star. "He could get 48 inches. The only one who's better than that, I think, is Michael Jordan."

While the men banter, the little boy in the Marlins jersey walks over to Suarez and parks himself at the candidate's knees. "Why do you want to do this?" asks the boy, craning his neck to stare into Suarez's rubbery face.

"Because I want people to vote for me, so I'm walking door-to-door," Suarez says, turning back to the father.

"No," the boy pesters, not sensing, or perhaps not accepting Suarez's polite brushoff. "Why do you want to do this? To be mayor?"

It's the perfect question, and it hangs in the air fatter than any Wiffle ball pitch. Why give up an apparently lucrative law practice to return to the bush league of Miami politics? Why march door-to-door to present a platform that promises a new Miami, seemingly disowning your own participation in the past? What is the motivation, really?

So piercing is the boy's simple question that Suarez freezes. He gazes down at his miniature inquisitor of furrowed brow and blank face. With the pause growing ever more pregnant, the boy's father finally offers an answer: "Because it's important."

The reply rouses Suarez from his stupor. "Because it's important," he echoes.

As New Times goes to press, Xavier Suarez remains the front-runner in the mayoral race. His door-to-door labors, he is convinced, will bear fruit, as will a radio campaign that he boasts has already "buried" Carollo. Of course, like Alex Penelas in last year's county race, the sitting mayor has raised more money than Suarez (though the gap is much narrower, $351,715 to $286,092) and is expected to launch a massive, and potentially crippling, television blitz.

"Actually, that's an interesting thing," Suarez says as he strides away from the Wiffle ball game, television the farthest thing from his mind. "Most people, they don't know that to jump higher, they have to work two muscles in the leg. There are two muscles: the calf, which is the soft springy muscles, and the Achilles tendon, which is the hard spring. Most people only work out the calves, but they don't work the Achilles tendon, and so they still can't jump. And you know the only way to work that out? Stretches. I'll add weight and lift myself up 100 times, three times a day. Oh, I can't tell you what a great feeling it is, to be able to jump so high. Like everybody else, they jump normal height for a basketball player, maybe two feet off the ground. But to be able to continue on after that, to go a good 'nother twelve inches above them, to watch them stop as you float past them -- oh, I'm telling you, that's the greatest feeling in the world."

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