Before taking the reins as mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine made a fortune as a cruise-ship media magnate who spent his spare time hobnobbing with celebrities like Mick Jagger, Annie Liebovitz, and Hillary and Bill Clinton. The minute Levine took office in 2013, he used his experience as a PR king to his advantage, rapidly turning himself into one of the nation's highest-profile climate-change fighters.
Levine is also a glutton for attention, so political insiders quickly began whispering that he was eyeing a run for governor. Today he all but confirmed those rumors, announcing in a "State of the City" video that he won't run for reelection this year.
"Today, as I enter the final year of my second term, I want you to know it will also be my last," Levine said. "Almost every major objective I've envisioned for our city is either in motion, planned, or been accomplished. As an entrepreneur who likes to get things done, I believe in the power of fresh ideas and fresh leadership."
In losing Levine, Miami Beach loses a passionate fighter both against climate change and for a host of big-ticket Democratic Party issues such as LGBT rights and minimum-wage increases. Sea-level rise will, quite literally, swallow portions of South Florida in the next hundred years, and Levine has, to put it bluntly, been the only mayor (or governor) to act like climate change is a true threat.
A longtime friend of the Clintons, Levine spent the 2016 presidential campaign riding a bus around the country while wearing an "I'm With Her" baseball cap, in a move many suspected set him up for a cabinet position in Clinton's administration. That gamble didn't turn out so well.
Levine's passion also often gets the best of him: He's prone to thin-skinned attacks on the media and a Trumpian hatred for basic scientific facts. He was also sued last year for blocking and deleting negative comments from city social media accounts. (He has long blocked New Times on Twitter.) Someone also stole $3.6 million from city coffers under Levine's watch.
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But compared to Rick Scott, a Lovecraftian Old One who accidentally became governor after spending millennia buried under a swamp, Levine looks positively like Abraham Lincoln.
Scott, in his second term, is barred from running for reelection in 2018. Because horse-race politics are the sustaining lifeblood of the political press, rumors have already begun flying as to who will replace him: Despite the fact that former Gov. Charlie Crist, a man so leathery and politically unkillable he might be a mummy, was just elected to U.S. Congress months ago, he's already held a fundraiser for his next election. Insiders have wondered whether he'll launch a Democratic bid for governor again; he lost to Scott in 2014.
In addition to Crist, John Morgan — an Orlando Democratic donor and kingmaker — has said publicly that he's mulling a run at Tallahassee. Morgan orchestrated the United for Care campaign that led to the legalization of medial marijuana in Florida this year. With that battle finally over, Morgan says he's exploring whether he can win Scott's open seat. He has not yet made a decision.
Political insiders had also speculated that Levine would make a run for the U.S. Senate. But now that Florida's longtime Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson says he's running for another term, it's likely Levine will mount a campaign for governor instead.