Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

A Jewish candidate for governor who is bullish for Florida

There are four Democratic contenders for governor of Florida and one of them is Jewish. His name is Philip Levine, and he optimistically sees a lot of opportunity for Florida. He is the former mayor of Miami Beach, a wealthy businessman, and a member of Temple Beth Sholom, a Reform congregation in Miami Beach, but he said his personal faith does not play a part in his campaign. And although he is proud to have been a prominent surrogate for Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign, he sees himself as someone running for governor who can reach across the partisan lines.

"I am not right, not left. I'm forward," he confidently stated.

Levine was in Altamonte Springs recently to speak at a standing-room-only Young Democrats of Seminole County meeting. He had just arrived from an NAACP meeting in Hillsborough County (Tampa), wearing relaxed jeans, sports jacket, open-collared shirt and full of energy.

Levine has been touring Florida, talking with Floridians in their homes, at grassroots meetings, and investing in TV ads (two of them-one in English and one in Spanish). He is getting his name out there. According to a University of North Florida poll, Levine is unknown by 73 percent of Floridians. That's better than his Democrat opponents: Gwen Graham is unknown by 78 percent and 81 percent have never heard of Andrew Gillum (the poll did not show figures for Chris King).

All the traveling invigorates him. He loves meeting people and encouraging them to pursue their dreams. Levine believes in the American dream because he has proven it. After graduation from the University of Michigan, he went to work as a lecturer on Royal Caribbean cruise lines. Later, with only $500 capital, he built a business that grew to $400 million providing magazine and TV programming on cruise ships. He sold that company and is now CEO of Royal Media Partners.

Aside from his personal growth, Levine has a passion for the State of Florida. He is a firm believer that Florida is the future and can be an international leader-not just in climate change and sea level rise-but also in solar and renewable energy.

"As goes Florida, so goes the country," he told his Young Democrats audience.

When he ran for mayor of Miami Beach, he knocked on over 6,000 doors talking to people about his plans if elected their mayor.

Then as mayor, Levine had the city invest $500 million to raise the sea walls, curb flooding by installing pumps and raising the streets. Standing up to Governor Rick Scott, Levine also passed a bill raising the minimum wage in Miami Beach, because "it was the right thing to do."

No one can live on $8.10 an hour he stated, and he proposes that every local community should be able to decide what is a fair minimum wage for their area.

"Remember something-in Miami Beach, it costs a lot more to buy a hamburger than it does up in Orlando, so why should we have the same minimum living wage? So we should let our communities decide," he said on This Week in South Florida (channel 10).

Another one of Levine's mottos is "Just get it done," which could sound like bullying, but when Levine sees a problem, he comes up with ways to solve the problem, and if he doesn't have a solution, he finds the expert who does have a solution.

His vision for Florida is to invest in education; be stewards of the environment; develop public transportation; and to see NASA as our "Silicone Valley."

Levine said he would pass an executive order to have equal pay for equal work, and would like to see more women entrepreneurs.

For education, he believes there should be no debt burden for college students, as long as they work in the state for a certain amount of time after graduation. The same would go for vocational schools.

"No one should be denied an education because of their parents' income," he said.

Levine believes Florida should use its natural resources to develop solar and renewable energy. "After all, we are not the partly-cloudy state. We are the sunshine state!"

He would also give incentives for the film and TV industries to return to Florida, which would increase the state's employment rankings.

"After Rick Scott chased our film industry to Georgia by ending our Film Florida program, Florida has lost out on over $1 billion dollars, and thousands of local jobs," Levine stated, "If I am elected governor, we're bringing the film industry back in town."

Levine spoke for well over an hour and a half at the Young Democrats meeting and answered a multitude of questions, addressing public transportation (he encourages public-private partnerships and empowering local communities); charter schools ("we need to invest in our public school system and not 'follow the money'"-"Florida is ranked 46th in the country and teachers' salaries are $10,000 below other state salaries and this is unacceptable," he said); Affordable housing (he would develop an incentive program to build affordable housing with public-private partnerships); and reform for criminals ("felons should be able to vote, and vocational training should be provided," he stated).

There are 67 counties in Florida and Levine hopes to visit many of them on his bus tour across Florida, and as the famous poem goes, "he has miles to go before he sleeps."

As this article was being written, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland happened in which 17 people were killed. As mayor of Miami Beach, Levine released this message on his Facebook page:

"I have a direct message for Floridians in response to the senseless shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: the time to act is NOW.

As a graduate of Broward schools, and a father, tragedies like these need to end for good.

Thoughts won't heal the pain, thoughts won't bring back a child. But taking action now can prevent another parent from enduring this pain.

Call your leaders in Tallahassee who have preemptively taken away power from local communities to deal with these issues, mobilize, and act."

The Democratic primary is Aug. 28, 2018.


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