October 10, 2017

Levine hires political fundraiser ahead of possible Florida gubernatorial bid

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has hired a political fundraiser, a significant step in his potential 2018 bid for Florida governor.

Levine's political committee, All About Florida, announced the hiring Tuesday morning of Courtney Whitney, a Democratic fundraiser who has worked for Weston Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former Miami Rep. Joe Garcia. The committee has already collected nearly $4.8 million since its formation in February, including about $2.6 million from Levine himself.

"Mayor Levine possesses a unique entrepreneurial background, with a robust network of international business leaders," Whitney said in a statement. "This won't be a traditional fundraising operation, and I am thrilled to be a part of the team at All About Florida for this one-of-a-kind opportunity."

Levine's team includes Christian Ulvert, fresh off state Sen. Annette Taddeo's special-election victory last month, and Matthew Van Name, former campaign manager for St. Petersburg Rep. Charlie Crist.

Were Levine to jump into the Democratic primary -- a decision he intends to announce in November -- he'd have already outraised Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King. Orlando atrial attorney John Morgan, another potential Democratic candidate, recently had a friendly meeting with Levine and posted about it on Twitter.

Last month, Levine traveled to Puerto Rico to deliver Hurricane Maria relief supplies to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz -- and took the opportunity to criticize President Donald Trump on national television for a slow response to storm's devastation.

August 03, 2017

When it rains in Miami, the politicians pour it on

MF 01 MHD SBB@joeflech & @NewsbySmiley

What's a torrential downpour in Miami, replete with serious flooding in Brickell and South Beach, without a little politics? On Wednesday, the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach wasted no time in using Tuesday's floods as a call to action in the face of impending sea rise spurred by climate change.

In Miami Beach, pumps in Sunset Harbour lost power for about 50 minutes during the storm — enough to cause flooding in several neighborhood businesses. Mayor Philip Levine, a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate who has made anti-flooding projects a priority during his four-year tenure, immediately demanded the city expedite its normal procurement process to quickly get backup generators installed at the Sunset Harbour pumps.

But the mayor forgot that more than a year ago, an engineer who helped develop the city's philosophy on stormwater drainage warned him, the rest of the commission and high-level city staff that they ought to put permanent generators at each pump station in case a storm knocks out the power.

Engineer Dwight Kraai sent the commission and top Beach officials an email in May 2016 advising that the city consider backup generators to prevent precisely what happened Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Tomas Regalado called a press conference to launch a campaign for a $400 million general obligation bond, nearly half of which would to go toward flooding and sea rise projects. Only in his last year in office has the mayor placed an emphasis on flood prevention and sea rise, even though Miami leaders knew five years ago that the city needs at least a quarter-billion in drainage improvements.

Regalado defended his recent attention to sea-rise and drainage, noting that 11 pumps have been built during his tenure and his administration hasn't had the money to fund anti-flooding projects without raising taxes.

Read more.

May 19, 2017

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine open to running as independent for Florida governor

Levinetigerbay

via @adamsmithtimes

Maybe multimillionaire Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine was just trying to be provocative, earn a little extra attention as he mulls a run for governor. Maybe he was just spitballing an unlikely idea before the Tampa Tiger Bay luncheon Friday. But the Miami Beach Mayor and close friend of Bill Clinton said he is keeping the door wide open to running for governor as an independent candidate.

"There's one assumption that you made there - that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor," Levine, a Democrat, responded when asked how he would work with a GOP-dominated Legislature. "Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. ... Maybe possibly it's time we do something different."

Levine has been one of the biggest Democratic fundraisers and donors in the state, but he describes himself as a "radical centrist" and noted that successful mayors usually don't govern based on partisanship but on getting things done.

"I'm a Democrat right now, and I hope that I stay in the Democratic Party. I love the Democratic Party. But you know what's interesting? I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas, and I like a lot of the people in the Republican party as well. I think that's where we need to go as a country - and start in a state like Florida and make that decision that we're going to change and do it the right way," said Levine, 55, who is worth at least $100 million earned largely as a cruise industry concessionaire.

He has invested $2 million in a political committee to fund his exploration into a possible run for governor, but said he has not made up his mind yet and is in no rush. Other Democrats actively campaigning are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

The best experience for governing, Levine told the Tampa crowd, is no experience governing. Both parties claim to be the parties of working people and job creation but too often field candidates who have never created jobs or barely worked in the private sector. It was a clear dig at Gillum, Graham, and Republican candidate Adam Putnam, the agriculture commissioner.

His top priority would be improving Florida's economy, and he derided Gov. Rick Scott's emphasis on big tax breaks to lure corporations.

What will bring top-tier companies to Florida is creating "a culture and an ecosystem where they want to relocate, where their workers want to be around. It means unbelievable infrastructure, it means connecting our cities, it means making sure you have fresh water. ... NASA to us is our Silicon Valley and it hasn't been exploited to the level it really can be," Levine said.

"We should have innovation zones. Our universities must be the best. You make a decision -- do you want to invest in the state or do you want to cut everyone's taxes?. You can cut everyone's taxes, that's a great short-term solution and people will vote for you. ... I travel all over the world, all over the country. I have never had anyone say to me, 'We were thinking of coming to Florida, but it's a high tax state.' I've heard them say that your schools aren't as good as they could be."

Pressed after the luncheon if he is seriously considering running without party affiliation or considering even running as a Republican (a senior campaign adviser is Republican Adam Goodman of St. Petersburg), Levine said he has not decided.

"I'm keeping every door open right now, but I'm running as an American and I'm running as a Floridian and I'm running as someone who I believe has a good message for the times, which is not about being left and not about being right. It's about being in the center and being a Floridian, taking care of everybody and creating better and better opportunities for our state," Levine said. "I don't know if that's being Republican or Democrat, and as I go through my journey I'm going to figure that out."

Running as nonpartisan candidate would present enormous challenges, considering that more than 73 percent of the state is a registered Democrat or Republican and unaffiliated voters tend to be the most unreliable voters to turn out. The last major statewide candidate to run without party affiliation, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, received less than 30 percent of the vote in 2010 running for U.S. Senate against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.