By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Although dismissed by the local media as merely a punch line, Suarez has quietly been gathering funds and supporters. As of last week he'd raised $43,720 and had qualified for an additional $75,000 in public financing -- a campaign war chest of $118,720 that puts him on par with his county commission race's two "serious" candidates, former Miami City Manager Carlos Gimenez, who currently has $97,786 on hand, and well-connected attorney Andres Rivero, also set to receive public financing, bringing his available total to $163,730.
With five weeks until the August 31 election, none of these candidates appears to have a commanding lead (Hector Morales-George and inveterate New Times letter-writer Clyde Cates are also on the ballot). So can Suarez transcend his notorious reputation and actually win this race? Will voters forgive his late-night rambles, and particularly in light of South Florida's ongoing election difficulties, forget the vote fraud that threw him out of office?
Suarez is counting on it. While he insists he was unaware of the fraudulent absentee-ballot operation that elected him mayor, "nobody's going to mention '97 or '98 because [the problems with] this presidential election and the butterfly ballot is a much bigger deal." Equally important, he points to the example set by his mayoral successor, Joe Carollo. "Whatever anyone else might say about what I did that was a little odd, it certainly didn't rise to the level of throwing something at my wife," he quips.
You've got some campaign slogan there: Vote for me -- I may be nuts but I'm not as crazy as the other guy.
"No, no! Look, anybody can do a couple of odd things at some point in their life. I have done things, both as mayor and not as mayor, that are much odder than those [newspaper] stories."
That's hardly reassuring.
"I can go back to being cerebral. T.D. Allman called me the ultimate urban technocrat. I love my books, I can go back to being an introvert."
So it's safe to drop Carl Hiaasen's "Mayor Loco" nickname for you and come up with a brand-new one?
"T.D. Allman's 'urban technocrat' is not bad," Suarez muses. "I'd like to think there's a little charisma to go with it." He pauses to roll some fresh monikers around his tongue. "How about calling me 'the People's Commissioner'? I always return phone calls. Maybe I visit people a little too late at night, but if you write me a letter, you're definitely going to get a response."