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Democratic governor hopeful Levine talks strategy, guns to friendly Tallahassee political club

Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, made the trip to north Florida on Tuesday to speak to a club meeting of a mostly liberal group of current and former politicos.
Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Philip Levine speaks to the Capitol Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. | Emily L. Mahoney TIMES
Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Philip Levine speaks to the Capitol Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. | Emily L. Mahoney TIMES
Published Mar. 27, 2018
Updated Mar. 28, 2018

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine made his way north on Tuesday to introduce himself and his platform to the Capital Tiger Bay Club, a group of mostly Democrat political-types who are far from Levine's usual orbit of influence in South Florida.

Levine, who is running for governor, spoke briefly to the few hundred members of the invitation-only club about his background and hot-button issues, receiving applause when he called for a raise in the minimum wage and a ban of assault rifles.

"During this horrible gun tragedy that we experienced… we know what we need to do, but unfortunately it wasn't done up here in this town," he said. "My vision for the state of Florida is to truly listen to the people."

Levine also acknowledged his uphill battle to come, as a South Florida mayor and media CEO who began his campaign with poor name recognition among voters. But he was optimistic — and has reason to be, as his polling numbers for popularity and name ID continue to steadily grow.

"I have folks that say … 'Mr. Mayor, how can a Miami Jewish Democratic candidate stay alive? I don't see it in a million years,'" Levine said. "If we run a 67 county strategy, there's nowhere we won't go."

The Tiger Bay Club meetings are often an irreverent affair, and one male member took selfies with audience members while donning a dress, a wig and a name-tag reading "Gwen Graham," one of Levine's opponents.

One attendant, Marty Monroe who is a Tallahassee member of the League of Women Voters, said that before the event she didn't know much about Levine but now would strongly consider voting for him. A highlight for her was Levine's comments about making it easier for patients to obtain medical marijuana, which some advocates have said is still plagued by unacceptable delays and red tape.

"I'm a recovering breast cancer survivor medical marijuana saved me during chemo," she said. "He hit all the cylinders when he talked about how they're dragging their feet with medical marijuana … I like the fact that he feels urgent about it."