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Ferre Plans To Challenge Suarez For Mayor Of Miami

September 15, 1987

MIAMI (AP) _ Maurice Ferre, whose 12-year reign as mayor of Miami was ended by Xavier Suarez in 1985, announced Tuesday that he would attempt a comeback against the city’s first Cuban-born chief executive.

″Do the people of Miami want a non-hands-on, idealistic, vigorous, visionary mayor?″ Ferre asked Tuesday as he entered City Hall to file for office. ″Or do they want a person who’s working toward what has to be the future of this city?″

Ferre said he wants Miami to become a major American city, complete with theaters, museums and other facilities, and said commercial development is needed to reach that goal. However, he said, while 5,000 hotel rooms were added in the last five years of his administration, none are under construction now.

His tenture also included the era of the Liberty City riots and the arrival of thousands of Cubans in the Mariel Boatlift. The mayor of Puerto Rican heritage served an unprecedented six two-year terms before coming in third in the 1985 primary, behind Suarez and another Cuban-born candidate, banker Raul Masvidal. Suarez handily won the runoff a week later.

Suarez has already said he will seek reelection, and black attorney Arthur Teele has also declared for the job. Saturday is the filing deadline for the primary election, which is held on the first Tuesday in November.

Ferre’s entry seemed certain to generate interest and excitement in what many observers had expected would be a simple exercise for the incumbent. The part-time position is largely ceremonial but highly visible and politically influential.

Both the 1983 and 1985 elections were marked by bloc voting along ethnic lines.

In both, Suarez won overwhelming majorities among Cuban-American voters, who comprise a growing majority of the city’s electorate.

But Ferre, who in 1983 won all but a fraction of the city’s black vote, lost all but a fraction two years later after alienating many blacks by participating in the firing of Howard Gary, Miami’s first black manager.

In recent interviews, Ferre has maintained that Suarez’s record has been lackluster and that Cuban-American voters no longer are anxious to keep a Cuban-American in the mayor’s office.

But at the same time, Suarez has strengthened his support among black and non-Hispanic white voters, according such observers as Liberty City political activist Clyde Pettaway and professional campaign strategist Richard Rundell.

Ferre has been widely criticized by opponents and newspaper editorial writers for alleged efforts to exploit ethnic divisions for his own political advantage.

In 1983, advertisements for his campaign on black-oriented radio stations warned of a ″Cuban takeover″ of the city.

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