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Politics

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine Jumps into 2018 Governor's Race

November 1, 2017 - 11:45am
Philip Levine
Philip Levine

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is hoping to take his mayoral experience all the way to the Florida Capitol, announcing his intentions to run for Florida governor in Miami Wednesday morning.

Huge murals of former President John F. Kennedy, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. adorned the walls in Levine’s campaign headquarters, where supporters gathered to hear Levine make his announcement.

In his speech, Levine said he hopes to emulate those historical figures as he moves forward in the next chapter of his political career.

“Like America’s greatest generation, these heroes devoted their lives — even sacrificed their lives — to help all who would follow,” Levine said. “Today here in Florida, it’s time to do what’s right.”

Levine, a 55-year-old businessman with no previous political experience, is the fourth Democratic candidate running for governor. On Wednesday he joined former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King, all of whom are vying for the coveted Democratic nomination next year. 

He plans to center his run for governor around climate change, public education and raising the minimum wage -- all issues near and dear to Democratic voters. 

“To protect the future, we must be able to sustain it,” Levine said, highlighting the need to focus on climate change. 

Levine spent most of the summer traveling around Florida meeting with potential voters. He told CBS’ Jim DeFede he was trying to gauge what Florida wanted in a leader, hoping he would be their next choice for governor. 
 
“I’m going to do what I did when I ran for mayor — I’m going to talk to the people,” Levine said several months ago. “I wanna hear what they have to say. I want to understand better what’s going on and what we need to do to make Florida a better place for everybody.”
 
Levine has outraised his fellow Democrats in spite of jumping into the race much later than his opponents. He’s pumped more than $2.5 million of his own money into a $4.7 million pot for his political committee, All About Florida. 
 
The Miami Beach mayor hasn’t been quick to spend any of the money he’s raised either, only spending about $162,000, leaving him with $4.6 million cash on hand. 
 
Last month, Levine didn’t raise any money through All About Florida, but spent about $46,000 in campaign expenditures. 
 
Levine has said he’s ready to spend as much money as it takes to fuel a gubernatorial bid, possibly dumping $20 million into his campaign. 
 
If history is any indicator, funneling that much cash wouldn’t be entirely unusual -- Gov. Rick Scott spent $30 million on his first primary run in 2010, ultimately spending $70 million of his own money in the race, which was one of the most expensive in Florida history. 

Despite being in a strong place financially, Levine has come under fire as mayor of Miami Beach in recent months. 

Levine has been routinely accused of censoring potential critics on social media en masse and is facing a lawsuit for allegedly violating Florida's Sunshine Law since he conducts official business on his social media accounts. 

Earlier this year, Levine and Miami Beach were criticized for unfriendly policies towards homesharing companies like Airbnb, which allow residents to rent out their homes to tourists for a fraction of the price of a hotel.

Miami Beach’s short-term rental fees are the highest in the nation. The city charges up to $20,000 in fines for violators of the short-term rental ban, which means any stay less than six months and one day are strictly forbidden.

A new poll released Wednesday shows the South Florida Democrat also still has some work to do if he wants to win his party’s nomination in next year’s primary.  St. Pete Polls took a survey for Florida Politics which was published on Wednesday morning which showed Levine only had the support of 6 percent of Democrats across the Sunshine State. 

A plurality of Democrats -- 46 percent -- are undecided while 31 percent of them support former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum breaks double digits with 13 percent followed by Levine with six percent and Orlando businessman Chris King with five percent. 

Levine said he would promote kindness and understanding while helping the neediest Floridians.
 
“Being there for others is not a political issue, but a human one,” he told the cheering crowd. “I will lead the state of Florida that way. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.”

 

 

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

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