Ex-Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez Considering Bid Against Gimenez For County Mayor

The last time Xavier Suarez occupied a mayor's office, it didn't end so well. His second term as Miami mayor lasted just 111 days in 1997 before an absentee ballot scandal cost him his seat and a spate of bizarre behavior earned him the lasting nickname "Mayor Loco."

But Suarez is now pondering another bid -- this time at County Hall. The county commissioner says he's dissatisfied with Mayor Carlos Gimenez and believes voters are as well. "It's no secret I'm not satisfied with the progress of reform," Suarez tells Riptide. "But I'm about a year away from any decision on whether to run."

See also: Xavier Suarez: Don't Call Him Loco

Suarez made a remarkable political comeback in 2011, when he won an election to take Gimenez's place on the commission after he moved to the mayor's office.

Since then, he's mostly resembled the Xavier Suarez of the mid-'80s, when he won three terms as Miami mayor and won national acclaim for his handling of the local economy and for guiding the city through the tail end of the Cocaine Cowboys era.

Suarez says he's taken issue with a number of Gimenez's recent decisions. He recently released a task force report critical of the mayor's economic plans, particularly his handling of public transportation budgets and what Suarez sees as his prioritizing managers over workers in the county.

He also criticized Gimenez for working out a deal for the Dolphins to renovate Sun Life Stadium in exchange for county payouts for big events -- a deal Suarez compares to the disastrous Marlins Stadium fiasco negotiated by his predecessor, Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled from office.

"On Spanish radio, they're calling him Carlos Segundo," he says. "Carlos the Second, because it's almost identical."

But the commissioner says he has to take time to take the temperature of potential voters and to consider whether he could raise enough money to mount a serious challenge to Gimenez, who has already said he's running for re-election.

"I'm not known to be able to do a lot of fundraising. My son always reminds me I'm really bad at it," he says, referring to City Commissioner Francis Suarez. "You also have to do some polling. You have to make sure everyone is as dissatisfied with the mayor as you are."

If Suarez does throw his hat into the ring, City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff -- who is term limited out of a job in 2015 -- might be a candidate to take his seat, the Miami Herald reports, as would Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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