Philip Levine opens bid for Florida governor with a message about climate change

The Miami Beach Mayor, a Democrat, faces a packed Democratic primary roster to determine who will face probably-Adam Putnam.

click to enlarge Levine spoke at a Tampa Tiger Bay event earlier this year. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Levine spoke at a Tampa Tiger Bay event earlier this year.

A fourth Democrat entered the gubernatorial contest fray on Wednesday — and he did so with an urgent message about rising sea levels.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced he'd be joining the roster of potential Dem nominees, which (in addition to Levine) so far includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King.

Levine, who became wealthy in business prior to getting into politics, put climate change first in his speech, and decried Florida's Republican leadership for not paying attention to it — if not ignoring it flat out, as the current governor seems to have been doing. As mayor, Levine took the national stage with his message about fighting sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change. Miami Beach, after all, is subject to routine flooding that until recenty hasn't been so routine.

"It's time to address climate change by addressing Tallahassee's climate of denial," he said toward the beginning of his speech as he outlined his platform.

Moments later, he cited initiatives Miami Beach took in an effort to be resilient to the rising water levels that threatened residents of and visitors to the city.

"As mayor of Miami Beach, we didn't ignore rising sea levels with rhetoric," he said. "We took action with state-of-the-art pumps; infrastructure with renewable energy programs that are now being studied and recognized as a role model of cities around the world. We are now the focus of documentaries and scientific studies looking for remedies coastal areas an coastal states like Florida must find before the next Irma goes through."

Levine also took on preemption, a method by which state lawmakers block cities from making policies that cater to local interests — whether they pertain to the environment, guns or otherwise.

"It's time to restore power back to the local level where people live, instead of conceding more control to Tallahassee, where the politicians live," he said.

Another key aspect of his platform is an increase in the state's minimum wage.

"It's time to make a day's pay enough to avoid a lifetime of dread, fearing one event, one illness, one bad break could break an entire family," Levine said.

While most Floridians tend to be pro-environment (or, at least, that's what polling suggests), voters in statewide elections tend not to elect pro-environment candidates (see: Rick Scott), be it due to Democrats'/young peoples' unwillingness to turn out to the polls in non-presidential years — which happens to be when the governor's race occurs — or the belief that somehow allowing more air and water pollution will grow the economy (even in a place like Florida, where clean air and water are literally the basis of the state's economy).

The Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries are about ten months out. Other Dems may still jump in, including boisterous, iconoclastic Orlando lawyer John Morgan.

Among Republicans currently running in the primary are Clearwater State Sen. Jack Latvala and current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Among speculated contenders on the GOP side are State House Speaker Richard Corcoran and former Congressman Ron DeSantis.

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