Former Miami Beach Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine was in Pensacola Thursday, speaking to the Escambia County Democratic Women’s Club. Before that, he sat down with WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody.
An entrepreneur, Levine started Onboard Media -- a port-marketing program for the cruise industry, which eventually expanded to 85 stateroom magazines and television. Onboard merged with Starboard Cruise Services before Levine sold it in 2000. Then he went into politics, running for mayor of Miami Beach.
“I became mayor twice – two-term mayor and after that I said, ‘You know, I don’t like the direction of the state of Florida; I'm going to go run for governor because I truly – truly want to bring our state into the 21st Century,’” said Levine.
There are many paths that can lead to the governor’s office, and being a mayor is one of them.
“You’re dealing with people every day; you’re dealing with potholes, you’re dealing with big projects,” Levine says. “But, the key is as a mayor, did you get things done? We got a lot done; I was very impatient, and then we had a list of accomplishments.”
As for the man he wants to succeed, Levine says Gov. Rick Scott has had the wrong focus during his eight-year tenure.
“Gov. Scott is someone who has done really well for people that have money,” said Levine. “He’s done really well in helping the rich get richer. I’m running for governor to help Floridians – the ones that work two and three jobs, the ones that can’t survive on $8.25 an hour.”
The “$8.25” references Florida’s minimum wage. Rather than have Tallahassee set a “one size fits all” rate, Levine wants to leave it up to local governments.
“As a former mayor, I want mayors; council people, commissioners to make their decisions on the ground. They know best. And whether it’s raising or lowering their minimum living wage based on what they think is right. What it costs to buy a hamburger in Miami Beach is a lot more money than it costs to buy a hamburger in Pensacola. And they need to make those local decisions.”
Another major issue for Levine is gun regulation. He jumps in quickly to say he’s a gun owner and holds a concealed weapons permit. But on the other hand, he contends that Florida has the weakest gun safety laws in the nation, citing the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
“Not only is it terrible for our children [and] our families, the safety at risk, but from an economic point of view,” Levine says. “If you’re a great, admired corporation in America, why would you want to come to a state that has the weakest gun safety laws in the nation? They don’t want to put their families at risk.”
Levine is proposing an Education Security Administration to protect schools, raise teachers’ salaries, and expand Medicaid coverage—all without raising taxes.
When it comes to the Panhandle, Levine says offshore drilling is perhaps the largest issue, given the 2010 oil spill; the federal government’s desire to open up now-banned areas for drilling, and what he sees as Governor Scott’s flip-flopping.
“Before he became governor and when he became governor, [Scott] was all about offshore drilling; then all of a sudden he decides to run for [U.S.] Senate and he’s against offshore drilling,” Levine says. “Offshore drilling would be a catastrophe for the Panhandle. We saw what happened with the spill. We don’t ever want this to happen again and matter of fact, why would we want to go backwards into fossil fuels, when we know the future of alternative energies is not oil?”
The latest poll from Real Clear Politics shows Levine about two percentage points behind former Congresswoman Gwen Graham in the Democratic race. But Levine dismisses that and most other polls.
“Based on our internal polling, we see that we are out in front,” said Levine. “We look at our own internal feeling, what we’re seeing and our analysis. Thank God we’re out in front, but we don’t take anything for granted.”
The deadline to register to vote in the August 28 primary is July 30; and early voting will run from August 18-25. More information is available at your county’s elections supervisor website.