Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez flirted with running for Congress this year in a long-shot bid to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as an independent. He recently declared that flirtation over, allowing him to now flirt with running for Miami-Dade mayor in 2020.
"I would be running as an independent," said Suarez, a former Miami mayor whose son, Francis Suarez, now holds the job. "A lot of people didn't think that was viable."
Suarez has told supporters privately he will not seek the seat of Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican representing a left-leaning district that's seen as a likely Democratic pick-up in the fall. Bruno Barreiro, a Miami-Dade commissioner, is running for the Republican nomination in the District 27 race, and Suarez's interest raised the possibility of a second commissioner entering the contest.
County commissioners hold non-partisan posts, as does the mayor. The current mayor, Republican Carlos Gimenez, must leave in 2020 under the county's term-limit rules. The mayoral race is expected to be a wide-open contest to succeed Gimenez.
Suarez, who holds the commission seat Gimenez surrendered to become mayor, almost ran against Gimenez in 2016. Suarez's political committee aired attack ads against Gimenez, but Suarez ultimately decided to run for reelection instead in 2016. He also faces term limits requiring him to leave the commission in 2020, and has privately told supporters he's interested in running for mayor in 2020.
Suarez declined to address his mayoral ambitions during a recent interview that saw him mostly close the door on Congress.
"I am not considering a congressional race," he said. "But that could change."
Asked why he's no longer considering a run for Congress, Suarez pointed to Washington winters as particularly unappealing for Miami's first Cuban-born mayor.
"I hate to say it, but the cold is a factor," he said, citing a recent trip to Boston. "My blood has thinned."