Philip Levine, Miami Beach Mayoral Candidate, Accused of Buying Votes From Elderly

It's been a tough few days for Miami Beach mayoral candidate Philip Levine. First, at last week's mayoral debate, the businessman was charged with making a racist comment after he promised to change the city hall ethos from "being mañana, lazy." Then, he suffered a scathing writeup in the Miami Herald, which afterward quickly endorsed opponent Michael Gongora.

And now this. Last night, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and mayoral candidate Steve Berke protested Levine outside the Miami Beach Convention Center because, they claimed, Levine had bused in a trove of "elderly Hispanics" and planned to buy their votes with a free meal and a concert by Charanga Tropical.

"He's spending $50,000 on a party and busing in Hispanics!" harrumphed candidate Steve Berke, who promotes marijuana legalization and -- yes -- is also doing an MTV show about his run for Miami Beach mayor. "It seems very manipulative to me."

Berke contemplated the gravity of the situation for a moment. "I'm sure it's not illegal," he surmised, "but it's definitely unethical."

Nonsense, parried Levine. "To explicitly state or imply that I am 'buying the vote of seniors' is an insult to those who will be in attendance and the nearly 1,500 voters who signed the petition to place my name on the ballot," he said in a statement sent to Riptide. "It also discredits the credibility of your well-respected publication."

Levine defended his rally as a way to take the burden off locals. Normally, he said, "these events are financed by taxpayer dollars under the guise of 'giving back to our seniors.' The only difference is that I am personally paying for it -- not the taxpayers."

Either way, the night wasn't without some fireworks. After Berke and Bower gathered before the convention center, Berke said Levine "called the police. It was nuts. If the mayor wasn't there standing next to me, I might have gotten arrested."

(Riptide left a message for Levine asking whether Berke is right that he's to blame for the cops who showed up; we'll update this post when we hear back.)

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Terrence McCoy