Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who built a cruise ship media company worth hundreds of millions of dollars, entered Florida’s Democratic primary for governor Wednesday, joining an already crowded field hoping to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
He’s been building toward the announcement for months, hiring a team of political advisers and touring the state to meet with Democrats and other groups. He even did a five-day bus trip around Florida for SiriusXM to highlight the state’s lifestyle and attractions.
Levine made the announcement in front of a large banner showing President John F. Kennedy with the quote, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Several hundred people attended the event in Miami’s Wynwood Design District.
Levine grew up in the Brookline, Massachusetts, neighborhood where Kennedy was born and attended the same elementary school that Kennedy did. He moved to Florida when he was 10.
Levine, 55, entered politics for the first time when he spent $2 million of his own money to win the 2013 mayor’s race. He has already given his political committee more than $2.6 million and raised another $2 million in donations.
Levine built his fortune off a marketing company that began with $500 in capital in a Miami Beach studio apartment and expanded to provide in-cabin magazines and television content for cruise lines. It had $400 million in annual revenue when he sold it in 2000.
Levine is now CEO of a similar company that provides media for Royal Caribbean International.
He has criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the Hurricane Maria aftermath in Puerto Rico and chartered a plane to take resources to the island.
Climate change is guaranteed to be a part of Levine’s campaign. Miami Beach recently began a $100 million flood prevention program to address rising sea levels. Some of the city’s roads have flooded during high tides even without a storm.
Levine is a longtime friend of former President Bill Clinton, who endorsed him in the mayor’s race. He is seen as a moderate who has called for Democrats and Republicans to work together.
He is also well known in the heart of the Democrats’ South Florida stronghold, which could be an advantage in the primary.
Levine joins former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary.
Republicans seeking the seat Scott is leaving due to term limits include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Sen. Jack Latvala.