The new kid in class wants you to know he’s not as mean as the others.
That is essentially Francis Suarez’s message to LGBT voters as the Miami mayor enters a crowded Republican presidential race. In an interview with NBC News, Suarez drew a distinction between his views and that of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when it comes to education.
“I think we need to make sure that, you know, young adults do get sex education training,” Suarez told correspondent Hallie Jackson in a June 16 interview.
Calling the recent expansion of Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law, “excessive” Suarez said there is room for debate on how issues of sexuality and gender are addressed in public schools.
“We need to make sure that our children can grow up in an environment where they can make good choices, but I don’t think it should be indoctrination. And I think that’s where — where there can be a debate,” Suarez said.
Suarez and DeSantis were on the same page when the initial parental rights bill, that banned classroom instruction on gender and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, passed last year. In April, however, the Florida Board of Education, at DeSantis’ request, expanded the law to cover all grades.
Meanwhile, Suarez launched his long shot presidential campaign June 15, becoming the third high-profile candidate from Florida — behind DeSantis and ex-President Donald Trump — to seek the Republican nomination. He is the first and only Hispanic candidate in the race.
“I’m the biggest threat to the Democratic Party, a Hispanic, conservative, Republican from a big city — the unicorn of all unicorns,” Suarez told Fox News. “It destroys their entire narrative, so they’re threatened, and they’re coming at me with everything they can. But I don’t apologize for my success.”
The 45-year-old attorney and cryptocurrency enthusiast is a two-term Miami mayor, whose father also served as mayor, but was removed from office for election fraud. The younger Suarez is reportedly the subject of an active FBI investigation into allegations he took bribes from a developer to fast-track a Coconut Grove project.
When asked about Suarez’s presidential aspirations, Florida Congressman Carlos Gimenez, a former Miami-Dade County mayor, did not pull any punches.
“I’ll never support Francis Suarez, I think he’s a complete fraud,” Gimenez told Fox News.
No mayor has ever been elected president, leaving MSNBC analyst Tim Miller to wonder just what is the Suarez endgame.
“A 2018 Andrew Gillum voter has entered the field,” Miller tweeted. “Party realignment, grifting or both?”
Responding to Miller’s question, Eric Jotkoff, a communications strategist for the National Education Association and former Barack Obama adviser, said Suarez has no chance.
“Suarez’s campaign is a mix of grift and ego,” Jotkoff tweeted. “But Miami’s Matt Gaetz has no shot in the race because he has more baggage than MIA.”
And then there was longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone piling on with this tweet:
“Your dad was a nut job and sadly, so are you,” Stone tweeted. “By the way, soliciting bitcoin contributions from foreign nationals is highly illegal.”
In the face of such harsh words, Suarez is forging ahead with his campaign, seeking to amass 40,000 individual donations to make it onto the debate stage. He believes he can get there, citing his ability to communicate better than DeSantis.
“The governor is not particularly a relationship guy,” Suarez said during an appearance on Fox & Friends, adding DeSantis has lost endorsements from elected leaders in his own state because, “he doesn’t call people and try to build a relationship.”