As he considers running for governor next year, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is traveling far afield this week, gauging the mood of Florida's electorate through a statewide listening tour.
- Miami Beach mayor in Tallahassee as part of listening tour
- Philip Levine, a wealthy businessman, considering run for governor
- Levin is a Democrat
The journey brought Levine to a venue about as far from the urbane sophistication of Ocean Drive as is perhaps possible: Bradley's Country Store on the outskirts of Tallahassee. The store is renowned for its handmade sausages and was a favorite stopover for Florida's last Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles, in the 1990s.
Following two successive gubernatorial contests in which Democrats failed to campaign aggressively outside of the progressive stronghold of South Florida and the swing counties of the I-4 corridor, Levine suggested it's time for the party to reach outside its comfort zone.
"I know one thing as an entrepreneur and a businessperson: these folks that live everywhere, they're customers," Levine said. "They pay taxes, and they want to be treated like customers, and I think that to know your customers is to understand, really, more about your state."
The listening tour, then, was in large measure a crash course in Florida's diverse demographics for Levine, a wealthy businessman who spent nearly $2 million of his personal fortune to capture the mayor's office. Since announcing last year that he wouldn't run for re-election, Levine has raised $4 million for his state political committee, All About Florida, including $2 million from himself.
"It's unique, it's multicultural, interesting, exciting, and I think Florida is so different than the rest of our country, and I think Florida is kind of a microcosm of what our country is," Levine said of the insights he gained from his week-long tour.
The mayor, who hosts a program on Sirius/XM satellite radio, was accompanied by an audio crew recording the tour for a series of episodes that will begin airing in August. Levine says he plans to make a decision on the gubernatorial race this fall.
Three Democrats -- Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando developer Chris King -- have already launched gubernatorial campaigns. Like Levine, another wealthy Democrat, Orlando power lawyer John Morgan, is weighing whether to enter the race.