Miami’s real estate-backed mayor reelected, Virginia Key marina lease rejected

Voters rejected ballot measure on no-bid Virginia Key marina lease

Francis Xavier Suarez, mayor of Miami (Getty Images, iStock)
Francis Xavier Suarez, mayor of Miami (Getty Images, iStock)

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who amassed major campaign contributions from the real estate industry, was reelected on Tuesday with nearly 79 percent of the vote.

Voters also rejected a ballot measure that would have authorized the city to waive competitive bidding and move forward with a 75-year lease with Virginia Key Marina’s current operator. Nearly 53 percent of voters rejected the ballot item.

Together with his political action committee, Suarez raised more than $6 million, a bulk of which came from out-of-state donors. The pro-development mayor has been pitching Miami as a hub for major tech and finance firms for roughly a year, courting major tech investors and promoting his connections on social media.

Read more

Suarez, who was expected to be reelected, ran against Maxwell Martinez, Marie Exantus, Frank Pichel and Anthony Dutrow. Major donors to Suarez’s PAC, called Miami For Everyone, included David Edelstein’s TriStar Management, Chetrit Group, Property Markets Group, Ugo Colombo’s CMC Group, Moishe Mana’s Mana Group, Douglas Elliman parent company Vector Group, and others.

Commissioner Joe Carollo, a controversial figure who also collected a significant amount of cash from the real estate industry, was reelected as well, with 64 percent of the vote.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Miami voters rejected the Virginia Key no-bid lease with Biscayne Marina Partners LLC. Less than a month ago, Virginia Key LLC, a partnership between Miami Beach-based RCI Marine and Dallas-based Suntex Marinas, sued Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Christina White, the city of Miami and Biscayne Marine, which is led by the current operator Rickenbacker Marina Inc., over the redevelopment proposal.

The 27-acre Virginia Key site at 3301 Rickenbacker Causeway

Competing developers have engaged in a vicious, yearslong fight to lease the city-owned 27-acre Virginia Key site at 3301 Rickenbacker Causeway.

In the lawsuit filed in October, the MCI and Suntex partnership alleged the Miami City Commission showed “blatant and illegal favoritism” in awarding a multimillion-dollar marina redevelopment proposal to its competitor, which was subject to voters’ approval.

Biscayne Marine Partners proposed reconstructing the marina on Virginia Key into a mixed-use marina campus with slips, a dry dock boat storage facility, stores, restaurants and fueling facilities.