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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The first step from Miami Beach's mayor toward a run for Florida governor?

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine positioned himself Thursday as a leading Democratic voice against Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in what is perhaps the most concrete sign yet that Levine might seek the state's highest political office in 2018.

Levine unveiled a radio ad touting his city's planned vote for a living wage. Here's the twist: The ad is airing in California, the state Scott just visited in an attempt to recruit companies to Florida. Democrats are pushing the wage issue as a key difference with Republicans in upcoming elections.

"This is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and I want the people of California to know that Miami Beach is about to vote on an historic measure: a living wage for all its residents, one that allows them to not only work here, but live here," Levine says in the ad, which his office says is airing in the (expensive) markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The spot says it's pad for by Levine himself.

Levine has scheduled an afternoon news conference in Miami Beach to discuss the ad and "to comment on Governor Rick Scott's visit to Miami and address his latest trip to California where he took aim at minimum wage policies."

During his trip, Scott criticized California's high taxes and labor costs, prompting a backlash from his counterpart, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, and a slew of tough press in the Golden State.

Levine announced Wednesday that he plans to test a 2005 Florida law that bars cities from setting their own minimum wages. He wants Miami Beach to require a minimum of $10.31 an hour in 2017, with a dollar increase per year until it reaches $13.31 in 2020. Florida's current rate is $8.05 an hour.

Scott is term-limited in 2018, and Levine, who is independently wealthy, has been testing the waters to run as a Democrat. He became the first Miami-Dade County elected official to travel to Cuba in March, in a trip that featured all the political trappings of a man set on running for higher office. Whether he does might depend on this year's presidential race: Levine is friends with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who could reward Levine's fundraising and campaigning on her behalf with a spot in her administration if she gets elected.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2016 12:04pm]


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