The most enigmatic and unpredictable candidate for Florida governor in 2018 has to be multi-millionaire Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Heck, we can’t even tell if he’s more likely than not to run for the Democratic nomination, though he is acting much more like a candidate than the other super rich prospect, trial lawyer John Morgan. SiriusXM lately is promoting Levine’s tour through Florida for weekly radio show.
Levine, 55, reports that he raised another $500,000 for his political committee in July. That includes $275,000 from his own pocket, bringing his personal contribution to nearly $2.6 million. That in itself makes him a looming force in in the Democratic field, since none of the other candidates – Gwen Graham, Chris King, Andrew Gillum – is raising anything remotely as much as the leading Republican contenders, Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran.
Former U.S. Rep. Graham of Tallahassee, the ostensible front runner, raised just $138,000 to her political committee in July; King raised $146,000 (including another $63,000 from his own housing companies); and Andrew Gillum raised $10,000).
But Levine often seems to be winging it on fundamental questions about his candidacy. Except for his personal wealth, it’s not yet clear he has what it takes for a credible statewide campaign.
Back in March, he was “100 percent” open to self-funding a campaign himself, and he tossed $2 million of his own money into a political committee to pay for his travels around Florida exploring a campaign. In June, though, he raised $1.7 million, his campaign signaling that the cruise industry entrepreneur worth more than $100 million could put in $10 million of his own money but that he would be a formidable money-raiser.
In May, Levine threw the door wide open to shunning the Democrat label and running as an independent candidate for governor.
“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,” he declared in Tampa, a statement not exactly likely to endear him to ardent Democratic primary voters.
Maybe his media consultant, Republican Pam Bondi adviser and frequent Trump praiser Adam Goodman, has something to do with that or maybe he was just being provocative, but that prospect is now gone. State law requires a candidate for governor to change party more than 365 days before qualifying for office, so the deadline has passed.
Not that Levine seems eager to embrace the Bernie Sanders wing of his party. Last month, he sat down for a radio interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, and sounded like he was sympathetic with President Trump’s view of and attacks on CNN. T
“I want Walter Cronkite to come back. I think that we need objective news,” Levine said, when asked about Trump tweeting out a clip of him body-slamming someone with a CNN logo over their face. “I think there’s no right, there’s no wrong, there’s truth. And unfortunately, today’s ad game is such, and I’m in the media advertising world as well, and people will do anything, say anything to sell ads. And that happens with all the networks and all the mediums right now. And it’s unfortunate because the only ones who are really suffering are the American people, who are desperately looking for the truth.”
Levine often complains about his coverage in the Miami Herald and he frequently talks about the importance of “authenticity” in political candidates. He shares President Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style, for good or ill.
“…But this millionaire Democrat also is making headlines — with words like “tirade” and “flies off handle” — because of his off-the-cuff remarks and juvenile posts on social media,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorialized about Levine in March. “With the gubernatorial field beginning to take shape, Democrats should be asking themselves whether they really want a nominee whose temperament draws comparisons to that of President Donald Trump.