Congressman Carlos Giménez Slams Francis Suarez After Presidential Debate Snafu | Miami New Times


Congressman Calls Francis Suarez "Clown" Following Presidential Debate Debacle

"Blame yourself, blame your organization, blame your tactics," Congressman Carlos Giménez says of Suarez's campaign stumbles.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks during 2022 FOX Nation Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on November 17, 2022.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks during 2022 FOX Nation Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on November 17, 2022. Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty
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If you ask U.S. Congressman Carlos Giménez, the future looks bleak for Miami mayor and 2024 presidential candidate Francis Suarez's political prospects after Suarez failed to qualify for the Republican primary debate despite his claims he'd be gracing the stage.

Giménez, who has a long-running rivalry with Suarez, minced no words when reached by New Times about Suarez's latest stumbles.

"Blame yourself, blame your organization, blame your tactics," Giménez says. "That's why you're not on the stage, and blame also the fact that people don't believe you. Just come back home, finish your term, and then see what you can do, which is not much."

Suarez has attempted to mount a presidential run hinging on a promise to unify Americans who are sick of partisan bickering. In recent interviews and campaign videos, he portrayed himself as the Republican presidential candidate best suited to connect with young voters.

"There's an opportunity here to talk to number one, people in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic that Republicans lost to Joe Biden by 28 points, and also to have more Hispanics, which are trending Republican, continue in that trend and have someone that speaks to them, that can connect with them, that understands their nuances," Suarez said in a May interview with The Hill.

The Miami mayor's campaign has intermittently captured national media coverage, often not for the most flattering reasons.

Suarez referred to the persecuted Uyghur minority group in China as "The Weebles" on a conservative talk show, resorted to shelling out $20 giftcards to solicit donations to meet the debate qualifications, and falsely declared that he earned a spot on the debate stage.

"Nationally, I don't think he has a future," Giménez tells New Times. "Locally, I don't think he has a future."

Giménez, who referred to Suarez as a "clown," isn't the only voice in the GOP skewering the mayor. Fellow Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz slammed Suarez for leaving up a post pinned to his profile on X, formerly known as Twitter, announcing he qualified for the debate even after the Republican National Committee made it clear he had not.

"Imagine how low a candidate’s self-awareness must be to post this, and keep it pinned, when they didn’t make the debate," Gaetz quipped.

He made a series of posts poking fun at Suarez, one of which joked that the mayor had announced he qualified for the 2026 Florida gubernatorial debate.

Suarez's spokesperson has not responded to a request for comment via email.

The mayor has maintained that his most recent debacle arose from a mixup over which polls would qualify him for the presidential primary debate, which is scheduled to take place tonight in Milwaukee. He apologized — not for the confusion, but for the fact that voters would not have the chance to hear his voice.

"Republicans will not be able to hear my story of how conservative principles of keeping taxes low, keeping people safe and focusing on creating prosperity for all created the most successful big city in America," Suarez said.  As soon as Suarez announced he was running for president, Giménez was skeptical. He previously told New Times Suarez doesn't have "a snowball's chance in hell" at securing the Republican nomination.

Now, in the wake of multiple gaffes, Giménez claims Suarez's campaign was marked by the type of "childish, amateurish" antics Giménez witnessed working alongside Suarez during Giménez's time as mayor of Miami-Dade County.

"When we were dealing with COVID, whatever I came out with was never good enough," Giménez says. "He had to one up me or whatever in the city. Now, mind you, it would cause confusion all throughout the county, but it didn't matter. It was ridiculous."

Giménez, who served as Miami fire chief while Suarez's father Xavier was the city's mayor in the 1990s, has been at odds with the Suarez family for years. In 2018, Giménez feuded with the younger Suarez as the latter pushed to expand his position to a strong-mayor format that would give him authority over the city's billion-dollar budget — a tiff that featured the two rivals publicly exchanging jabs.

While Suarez's presidential campaign touted his record as mayor, saying he made Miami the most successful large municipality in the country, Giménez says much of what was accomplished in recent years was outside the scope of Suarez's power under Miami's weak-mayor format.

"There's a reason why he announced [his presidential run] in California as far away from Miami as you can get," the congressman adds. "We know him here and he was afraid probably that the news media who did know him would challenge his claims of how he made Miami great, whereas the far away media has no idea of how Miami works."

Giménez specifically took issue with Suarez taking credit for reducing the homeless population in Miami — a claim featured prominently in a Suarez campaign video.

"The Homeless Trust was actually built by Alex Penelas when he was a commissioner and then mayor. Alvah Chapman and a lot of other people are the ones that worked to try to end or to ease homelessness in Miami. We are a model, but Suarez had nothing to do with building that model. But he makes people think that he did," Giménez says.

Suarez maintained throughout his presidential run that he'd be able to convert his experience as mayor into a national leadership role. He told voters he'd parlay his record ushering financial growth in Miami to help foster economic prosperity on a national level.

"I want to take that same prosperity, that same austerity, and I want to take it national to balance our budget and create prosperity for the American people," Suarez told Brett Baier on Fox News August 7.

Suarez said last week that candidates who do not qualify for the first Republican presidential debate should drop out of the race. He has not made an official announcement to that effect.

Back on the homefront, Suarez has a tough road ahead of him.

The Miami Herald reported that the FBI is investigating monthly $10,000 payments developer Rishi Kapoor made to Suarez as a consultant while Kapoor was seeking approval on a Coconut Grove real estate project. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is working with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office to also look into the mayor's work with the developer, the Herald reported.

City of Miami resident and activist Thomas Kennedy recently filed complaints with the county ethics commission and the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding the mayor's outings during Formula 1 weekend and his attendance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham.
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