By JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine rolled into the backyard of two potential Democratic gubernatorial opponents to talk sausage and sports on Friday.
While he didn’t shy away from discussing a potential run for governor, any announcement about a 2018 candidacy won’t come until the fall, he said.
His “A Day in the Sun” bus tour, Levine said, was about highlighting distinct characteristics of Florida for his weekly satellite radio show.
“This entire trip is all about SiriusXM … It’s all about educating our listeners (about) what is so unique and special about Florida,” Levine said.
Levine paints himself a businessman focused “radical centrist” policies — something important he said for Democrats to capture votes outside South Florida. He also reminded reporters about door-knocking efforts from his mayoral contests as he said traveling and listening to Floridians helps to better understand the people and the state.
“These folks that live everywhere, they’re customers,” Levine said. “They pay taxes and they want to be treated like customers. To know your customers, is to know more about your state.”
Interviews from the trip, part of an anticipated five-part series for his year-old show called “The Mayor,” are intended to be non-political, Levine said.
“People all want the same things,” Levine said. “They want better economic opportunities. They want great education. They want clean water. They want opportunities for their kids, and they want infrastructure. That’s shared whether you are a sponge diver in Tarpon Springs or whether you are hunting pythons in the Everglades.”
With a radio team in hand, and cameras rolling, Levine stopped for breakfast at Bradley’s Country Store outside Tallahassee — he purchased some store-brand grits, maple syrup and “gluten free” sauce — and later went off to talk Florida State University athletics at the campus.
Bob Fish, a Leon County resident who spoke with Levine while shopping in Bradley’s, said one of his key issues is the economy, particularly the state’s hospitality industry because that is how he’s employed.
“Tourism is what keeps us going, tourism is paramount,” said Fish, who noted he supports Gov. Rick Scott while considering himself an angry non-partisan. “I don’t care what party you’re from, just do the right thing for the state.”
Levine, who made a fortune through a business that provided media content to the cruise industry, was scheduled to finish the bus tour later Friday with stops in rural Wewahitchka and Pensacola. He started the tour Monday with stops at Fireman Derek’s Key Lime Pie and Versailles Cuban Restaurant in Miami and through the week went to places as varied as Everglades Safari Park, a Tampa cigar company and the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum.
Interviews were conducted with a sponge farmer in Tarpon Springs, a citrus grower in Citra and a charter fishing crew in Mayport.
Levine pulled in to Tallahassee with lower name recognition than other Democrats already in the field. But he has shown no qualms about digging into his own wallet while running for public office.
He spent $1.97 million, most coming from his own pocket, when he first won the mayor’s office in 2013. He spent about $896,000 while more comfortably retaining the seat two years later.
Other Democrats running for governor include Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a Tallahassee resident. Also in the race is Winter Park businessman Chris King.
The field also could end up including another wealthy candidate, as Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan considers a bid.