Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is one to watch in next governor's race
The completion of downtown Tampa's Riverwalk means Mayor Bob Buckhorn is yet again touting his city's post-recession renaissance, a message we'll hear constantly if he runs for governor in 2018 as widely expected.
Florida needs can-do, common sense leadership — the kind effective mayors provide -—not rigid ideology and hyper partisan arguing so common in Tallahassee and Washington, Buckhorn often says.
But Buckhorn's biggest obstacle to the governor's mansion may not be the economic fortunes of the Big Guava over the next couple of years or even the millions of campaign dollars already banked by his I-4 corridor neighbor, Agriculture Commissioner and likely Republican candidate Adam Putnam. His biggest obstacle may be the mayor of a much smaller city more commonly associated with spoiled brat celebs captured on camera by TMZ than for spawning strong statewide candidates.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 54, met me the other day in the tony Sunset Harbour area of Miami Beach. Hipsters and beautiful people streamed in and out of nearby yoga and fitness studios as the roar of road construction and paving work around Purdy Avenue and 20th Street nearly drowned us out as we walked and talked.
"Hey guys, looks great," he said, chatting with one of several sets of road contractors we passed. "We've just got to move, move, move."
The mayor, who won office in 2013 promising "to fix what's broken and make things work," nodded to the stretch of road by Biscayne Boulevard that a few years ago was three feet lower than it is today.
"This used to be constantly underwater," he said of Purdy Avenue, where a TV ad for his first mayoral campaign in 2013 had shown him and his boxer, Earl, kayaking and promising finally to do something about Miami Beach's steadily growing flooding crisis.
"I like to joke that some people get swept into office. I got kind of floated into office," Levine told me.