Miami Beach Mayoral Race Gets Litigious As Philip Levine Reacts to Attack Ads
Last month, Riptide revealed Michael Góngora's shady connections to a smear campaign launched against his rivals for mayor of Miami Beach. Now the man targeted by those attacks ads is hitting back, filing complaints and a lawsuit against his detractors.
Philip Levine, a self-made millionaire who has spent at least $1.2 million of his own money on his campaign, denies that his complaints are chilling free speech.
"Mr. Levine is exercising his right to defend himself from distortions and lies that Gongora is making about him," Levine's campaign claimed.
Levine has been the target of several shameless political attack ads, including one by Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility that photoshopped Levine between Fidel and Raúl in a Castro sandwich.
As Riptide revealed in September, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has strong and shady ties to Góngora.
Levine hasn't taken the abuse lying down. Instead, his campaign has filed complaints against his detractors and sent cease and desist letters to TV stations that air ads without the required disclaimers, according to the Miami Herald.
But some say Levine's counterattacks are stifling free speech. Alex Fernandez -- an aide to current commissioner Deede Weithorn who has himself run for office in the past -- told the Herald that he's not a political organization, just a concerned resident who didn't deserve to be slapped with a complaint.
"The complaints/lawsuits have been filed because Gongora is running a dishonest, unethical, and illegal coordinated campaign," Levine's campaign said in an email to the Herald. "His mail and TV ads are filled with outright lies and misleading information about Philip Levine and his company."
The statement went on to describe as "absurd" the suggestion that Levine's complaints were chilling free speech.
Miami Beach's mayoral election is on Tuesday. Voters must choose from Góngora, Levine, entertainer Steve Berke, or self-described spymaster Raphael Herman.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.