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Philip Levine

Philip Levine ad portrays American Dream rise, progressive mayorship

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is combining his American Dream roots and his progressive mayor tenure in a new TV ad.

The 30-second spot, “Person He Is” gets away from the topical subjects such as gun violence and off-shore drilling that have dominated his television advertising for the past couple of months, and instead focuses on his background. It’s part of the previously-announced $2 million ad buy his campaign and his independent political committee All About Florida combined to undertake.

The new ad is set to run through April, his campaign stated.

“As Floridians get to know more about Philip Levine, they will quickly see that the person he is and the mayor he was, is the governor he will be.” said senior adviser Christian Ulvert.

Levine faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the quest for the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The new commercial combines a theme many Republicans run on – the American Dream story of rising from humble beginnings, working hard and making a success in business – with the themes of progressive Democrats, pushing for equality, high wages, and addressing climate change.

“Growing up in a working class neighborhood, Philip Levine believes everyone deserves the same chance he had,” the narrator begins, as black-and-white photographs show a young Levine.

Then, with more contemporary video footage of Levine at work as Miami Beach mayor, the narrator continues, “After creating a successful business in the cruise industry, Levine dedicated himself as mayor to serving others, championed climate change by turning flooded streets into dry ones, passed Florida’s first living wage, fought inequality and passed a resolution to ban assault weapons.”

Chris King releases ‘March for Our Lives’ video ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is turning his support for the “March For Our Lives” movement into his latest video ad, releasing a 40-second spot on the internet that features a speech he gave during last Saturday’s protests.

King uses the video to promote his strong positions to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks, and face down opposition from the National Rifle Association, and to demonstrate his involvement in the student-led movement started by the survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King also uses it to reinforce his theme that he’s a new candidate for a new time.

“The students of Parkland are now inspiring us to do something different, to truly change the world and end gun violence,” King narrates, as the video shows him marching with protesters in Orlando.

King is then shown giving a speech to a cheering crowd, starting, “Are we ready to honor their memories? Are we ready to follow the students of Parkland? Are we ready to change the future of Florida?”

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seeking the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for Governor this year. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Andrew Gillum slates Thursday fundraiser in Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is back in Northeast Florida, with media hits and fundraising pitches filling his Thursday stop in Jacksonville.

Gillum, who appears on WJCT’s First Coast Connect at 9 a.m., has a number of non-press events slated also.

Not the least of which, in terms of his campaign’s viability, a fundraiser in Downtown Jacksonville Thursday evening.

The latest First Coast Gillum fundraiser kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Jessie Ball DuPont Center downtown.

The event runs until 7:30 p.m., and ranges in contribution levels from a low number of $75 to a host committee slot at $250.

Gillum has engaged a lot of earned media, but as of the end of last month was well behind Democratic primary opponents Gwen Graham and Philip Levine in fundraising and cash on hand.

Gubernatorial primary debates set for Aug. 1 and 2 at the University of Miami

Candidates vying to succeed Rick Scott in the Governor’s Mansion will get a chance to plead their cases to Florida voters in a pair of debates set to take place a few weeks before the Aug. 28 primary elections.

The Children’s Movement of Florida and the Florida Press Association announced the debates, to be held Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 at the University of Miami, in a Wednesday news release.

“The vision and direction offered by Florida’s next governor will dramatically affect the lives of Floridians in every part of our state — from children to the elderly,” said David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement. “These debates let voters hear what the candidates think on critical issues ranging from early childhood education, health care, environmental protection, and public safety to jobs and economic development.”

Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association statewide network of newspapers, agreed that the primary debates will be essential in helping voters make up their minds about which candidate wins their support and vote.

“With a long, diverse list of candidates already announced or expected to get into the race, we’re anticipating vigorous primary campaigns with thoughtful discussion of the issues in these vital debates,” said Ridings. “This is a very effective way for Florida voters to compare and contrast the candidates, side-by-side, and to see and hear their ability to present a plan that can take us all into the best possible future.”

UM President Julio Frenk added that hosting the debates — part of “The Race for Governor” project — will fulfill one of the institution’s missions by making the Coral Gables campus a center of engagement.

“The University of Miami is proud to host these debates and foster a productive dialogue among the candidates for governor,” Frenk said. “Our students, faculty, and staff will be deeply involved in helping prepare the campus for both debates and for spirited conversations about the issues that will be examined.”

Republican candidates — currently U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran likely to join shortly — will take the stage at UM’s Maurice Gusman Concert Hall on one of the evenings, while the Democratic field — currently Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — will get the other.

Each debate is scheduled to run one hour in the 7 p.m. time slot and will be broadcast on TV stations in each of Florida’s media markets.

It has not yet been determined which set of candidates will go first, though both parties have been notified of the dates and times. Also to be determined is the threshold of support candidates will need in the polls to be granted a spot behind the lectern, though organizers said those details will be hammered out in the coming weeks.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale CBS affiliate WFOR will serve as the production television station for the debates, and station VP/General Manager Adam Levy said he is confident both events will enjoy significant live viewership and an additional audience via rebroadcast of the programs on multiple platforms.

“These high-profile events will attract a significant and diverse viewership,” he said. “Our commitment is to produce an excellent exchange among the candidates in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.”

Other stations signed on to broadcast: WPBF (ABC) in West Palm Beach, WESH (NBC) in Orlando, First Coast News in Jacksonville, WCJB (ABC) in Gainesville, WFLA (NBC) in the Tampa Bay area, WCTV (CBS) in Tallahassee, WEAR (ABC) in Pensacola and WMBB (ABC) in Panama City. The debates will air on either WBBH (NBC) or WZVN (ABC) in the Fort Myers market.

Phil Levine comes to the ‘burg; here are a few first impressions

It’s a great time to be Philip Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach who is now the for-sure front-runner for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s wide-open gubernatorial race.

The latest poll — the second in a week — shows Levine leading former congresswoman Gwen Graham and way ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Entrepreneur Chris King, whose increasingly narrow path to victory is via the same centrist lane Levine occupies, is struggling to register in the surveys.

Levine has pushed his way to the top of the field, in part, by doing the same thing the current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion did to win in 2010 and again in 2014: open his personal checkbook. Kevin Cate, a media consultant to Gillum’s campaign, estimates (in a must-read analysis) that Levine has already spent $6.01 million on TV advertising. That’s half as much as what billionaire Jeff Greene spent during his entire 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate.

But it’s not money alone which has Levine atop the field. He’s positioned himself as the authentic optimist versus the dour, scolding Graham and the exciting but divisive Gillum.

Levine was in St. Petersburg over the weekend to open the first campaign outpost there of any of the gubernatorial campaigns. Having never met Levine, I asked for a few minutes before he cut the ribbon on his regional HQ. He and a couple of staffers met me for a soft taco and a Corona (the beer was mine) at Casita Taqueria in the burg’s Grand Central District.

Here are a few first impressions of Levine and his campaign.

— Levine has a great answer for the dog-whistle talk about how he might not be able to win in places north of I-4. It’s his answer to share, so I’ll let him, but needless to say, he knows that he’s a Jewish guy from South Florida. In fact, he says his favorite type of question is when people ask him how someone with the last name like Levine can win in the Panhandle.

— Authentic. That’s the word you hear a lot from Levine. He believes that’s what sets him apart from his Democratic AND Republican opponents. He insists (and seems) very comfortable in his skin. He was also interested in my opinion about who I thought was the most authentic among the Republicans.

— Levine bristles when his progressive credentials are questioned. He believes his record in the private sector and as mayor of Miami Beach speaks for itself when it comes to the issues Democratic primary voters care about.

— I get worried when wealthy politicians say things like ‘they don’t need to be governor‘ or ‘they don’t have to be in office to be successful.’ This is especially worrisome after the election of Donald Trump and Rick Scott, whose checkbooks have enabled them to eschew some of the necessary rigors of politics. It’s also a rich guy’s way of reminding you how rich they are. Levine comes close to saying stuff like that, but doesn’t go full-entitled.

— If I am playing fantasy campaign staff and I had to draft a team from the existing operatives working in the state, I’d be most satisfied with Levine’s team, especially after the hiring of Max Flugrath as press secretary. (Of course I’d draft Ashley Walker with the first pick, but she’s too busy running a slew of super PACs to direct a gubernatorial campaign.) No disrespect to Julia Woodward or Omar Khan, but Christian Ulvert as GC and Matthew Van Name as manager is the best one-two punch of any of the Democratic campaigns. Flugrath, who did miracle work with the Florida House Democratic Caucus, just adds further depth to Levine’s team. Top to bottom, I believe Levine has built the best staff. (One note: despite the campaign’s protestations to the contrary, Republican strategist Adam Goodman is involved in Levine’s bid at some level; there’s nothing official, but you know how you can tell someone’s been in a room recently even though you didn’t see them? That’s what my gut tells me about Goodman’s involvement. He’s there somewhere.)

— Levine says he and his team are having a lot of “fun” and that shows with the easygoing nature of the staff who was with Levine in St. Petersburg. Maybe Graham’s having fun at her workdays, and maybe Gillum’s having fun while barely hanging on to his position in the race. But there’s no doubt Levine is enjoying how his campaign is proceeding.

Joe Henderson: Philip Levine leads Dems but it’s too soon to say it matters

A new Public Policy Polling survey mirrors the result of a recent Gravis poll that showed former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has pulled ahead in the Democrats race for the gubernatorial nomination.

Crickets everywhere took notice.

First, Levine has filled the air waves lately with TV ads, spending an estimated $5 million from his considerable personal fortune on messages that have pumped up his name recognition.

It seems to have worked. Gravis had him leading a four-person Democratic field with 13 percent. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum had 11 percent, Gwen Graham had 9 percent, and Orlando businessman Chris King was thrashing about with 2 percent.

The numbers are different in the Public Policy poll – Gillum and Graham have swapped places – but the essence remains.

Levine has taken the lead.

What does all this mean though?

Probably nothing definitive.

No disrespect intended, but leading a poll by a few points before Easter for a primary in August isn’t going to chase any opponent out of the race.

His challengers haven’t been on TV or free media much lately, although Gillum did pick up an endorsement from Our Revolution, a group that backs Bernie Sanders.

Graham nabbed an endorsement from former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth for her position on dealing with Florida’s opioid problem.

“Gwen Graham is the only candidate for governor who has put forward an actionable plan to hold drug companies accountable and to end the opioid epidemic,” Butterworth’s endorsement read. “Gwen understands Florida can’t arrest our way out of this crisis. The state must stop it at its source.”

King was endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, which was a nice get for a traditional Democrat.

The truth is though, it has been basically impossible in recent weeks for these Democrats to get much attention unless, like Levine, they were willing to pay a lot of money for it.

The focus has been on the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the world-wide movement they helped spark to curb gun violence.

The Republican-led Legislature – particularly Gov. Rick Scott and outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran – took turns in the spotlight for helping shepherd a bill into law that imposed modest gun restrictions.

And, of course, President Trump makes news every hour, although that’s not always welcomed by Republican candidates in Florida or anywhere else.

His national approval rating is around 40 percent, although a recent poll showed 46 percent of Floridians give him a thumbs-up.

That’s still under water though, so GOP candidates may be wary of getting too close to the president.

Democrats will do their best to keep them as close as possible.

The campaign will get real soon enough, but for now it’s like a pack of marathon runners setting their own pace and preparing for the big push ahead.

The public won’t get focused on the race until the August primaries get closer, so this is the time to raise money and make sure to show up everywhere they are invited.

That means civic groups, weekend barbecues, holiday parades, and basically anywhere they can shake hands, make their pitch, raise a few bucks, and maybe get some local news coverage.

They’ll keep an eye on polls because that’s what campaigns do. It’s too soon for anyone to get too juiced about them though.

Philip Levine

Another poll shows Philip Levine leading Democratic primary

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is leading another poll of Democratic voters.

Released Tuesday, a survey of 613 likely Democratic voters from Public Policy Polling (taken from Mar. 13-15) shows Levine ahead of the field.

Levine is the choice of 22 percent of those surveyed, slightly leading Gwen Graham at 19 percent, and well ahead of Andrew Gillum (8 percent) and Chris King (5 percent). Forty-six percent of those surveyed are undecided.

Levine, who recently opened the first Tampa Bay-area gubernatorial campaign office in the 2018 race, leads Graham by four points with women (26 to 16 percent), but with men, Graham is up 22 percent to 17 percent.

Levine also has a +14 favorable rating (29 percent to 15 percent); his only pocket of demographic weakness, per the survey, is among Latino voters, with whom he has a 29 percent favorable rating and 40 percent unfavorable. However, all the candidates are underwater with Latino voters in this survey.

The Levine campaign also touted the latest numbers, particularly the decrease in undecideds.

“While the latest poll also shows that undecideds now are under 50-percent, the campaign is well-positioned to continue to grow its support in the months remaining before the August primary,” said campaign manager Christian Ulvert in a statement. “With Mayor Levine continuing to outpace his primary opponents on fundraising benchmarks and spending, the campaign will continue to effectively communicate and engage with Florida Democratic primary voters in every part of the state.”

As a multimillionaire, Levine is already spending much of his own money on the campaign, including $6 million on TV ads, as other Democrats in the field struggling with fundraising. Earlier this month, he received the backing of former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell; Democratic House Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa also predicted last week that Levine would win the Party’s nomination.

As for Graham, the former Tallahassee congresswoman received an endorsement Monday from former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. The leading Republicans in the race (so far) are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Here is the full polling document:

Public Policy Polling survey of Florida by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine announce campaign team expansions

The gubernatorial campaigns of Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine have announced expansions, with Phillip Jerez and Lindsay Pollard joining Gillum’s team, and Max Flugrath joining Levine’s.

On Thursday Gillum’s campaign announced that Jerez would become the campaign’s political director and Pollard, the deputy finance director. Also on Thursday, Levine’s campaign announced that Flugrath was coming on as communications director.

Jerez previously worked for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Weston Democrat.

Pollard, co-founder of Diverse Strategy Group, is a finance consultant who had worked as a consultant for Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign, and had served the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and various campaigns, including Randy Perkins‘ and Annette Taddeo‘s congressional runs.

“We’re thrilled to announce Phillip Jerez as our political director and Lindsay Pollard as our deputy finance director. Both Phillip and Lindsay bring strong relationships across Florida to this race, and they’re both going to help make the difference in the August primary and November general election,” Gillum Campaign Director Brendan McPhillips stated in a news release from that campaign.

Before joining Levine’s campaign, Flugrath had been communications director for the Florida House Democratic Office until last week, and had previously served in state Sen. Rod Smith‘s campaign.

“As Florida Democrats continue to rally around Mayor Philip Levine’s energy and progressive vision, our team is growing to help ensure that we have the infrastructure to bring our message to voters throughout Florida,” Levine Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name stated in a release from that campaign. “We are thrilled to bring Max on board to implement a robust communications strategy that effectively connects the mayor’s vision and proven record of success with Floridians in each corner of our state.”

Ron DeSantis’ campaign touts poll showing him on top

The Republican gubernatorial campaign for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is touting new poll results from Gravis Marketing Tuesday morning that show he has taken the lead.

The same poll also is being cited by the Democratic gubernatorial campaign of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as it shows him moving up into second place on the Democrats’ side.

Both party races are tight and the vast majority of likely voters are still undecided, according to the poll.

“What’s clear from every poll we’ve seen since the president endorsed Ron DeSantis for governor, is that Ron is trending up and Adam Putnam is trending down,” DeSantis’ Campaign Press Secretary David Vasquez said in a news release issued by the campaign. “It’s clear Florida conservatives want a proven leader who has the support of the President and not a career politician who’s beholden to special interests.”

The survey was conducted from Feb. 26 through March 19 of a random selection of 2,212 likely voters across Florida. Gravis is reporting a margin of error of 2.1 percent.

The poll put DeSantis in the lead on the Republican side with 19 percent, followed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam at 17 percent and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has not entered the Governor’s race but is expected to, at just 3 percent. Sixty percent of Republican voters said they were uncertain whom they would vote for.

On the Democratic side, the poll put former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine atop the Democratic field with 13 percent support, followed by Gillum with 11 percent, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee with 9 percent, and Winter Park businessman Chris King with just 2 percent. Another 64 percent of Democratic voters were uncertain whom to vote for.

DeSantis’ camp notes that Gravis Marketing Managing Partner Doug Kaplan said that on the GOP side “DeSantis has gained in each poll.”

Gwen Graham says she’d support local governments defying 2011 gun laws preemption

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham announced Tuesday that if she’s elected Governor she would support local governments such as Weston and Coral Gables that seek to defy the state’s 2011 law forbidding local gun ordinances.

Such a position could put Graham at odds with the Florida Legislature and also potentially with the Attorney General over who takes which sides, should legal battles begin over local gun ordinances. In 2011, Florida passed a law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, that preempts all local gun laws to the state, and sets stiff penalties, including personal fines, legal liability and threats of removals from office for local officials who seek, retain or vote for local gun laws.

Graham on Tuesday pledged legal resources as Governor to support local governments challenging the state’s firearm preemption law.

“Following the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, cities and counties across the state want to act where the Legislature and Rick Scott have failed — but Tallahassee politicians have trampled on home rule in an outrageous attempt to block local governments from banning weapons of war from our streets and protecting their citizens from gun violence,” Graham said in a news release. “As Governor, I will work with cities and counties to restore local control and their ability to protect their communities by directing my Office of General Counsel to assist local governments challenging the state’s preemption law.”

It was unclear how that would manifest itself, and whether it would put her in legal battles with the Attorney General. Certainly, the Governor would be in position to refuse to remove local politicians from office, as the law would demand.

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Leading Republican candidates Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are both staunch opponents of gun restrictions at local or state levels.

To date, the statute has been upheld by Florida courts, preventing municipalities from enforcing gun regulations. But Gillum has stood up with Tallahassee to keep its law on the books, a point he has used to argue that he is the one Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has actually fought for tighter gun control and won. However, the Tallahassee law is not being enforced.

Gillum’s campaign responded to her declaration Tuesday by accusing her of having an election year conversion on guns while Gillum has consistently fought for gun laws for many years.

“I’m glad the Congresswoman’s election year conversion on guns includes backing Mayor Gillum’s fight with the gun lobby. It would have been nice for her to support his fight when she was a sitting Member of Congress. Democrats can’t trust her on this issue, while the Mayor’s consistently fought for gun safety,” Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communications director, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Following the mass shootings at Pulse in 2016 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February, some city officials are talking about defying the state, seeking to re-establish local gun ordinances.

Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli proposed a city-wide ban on assault weapons last month, and Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer is urging cities and counties across Florida to join a coordinated effort challenging the state’s preemption law.

“The NRA spent $300,000 to try to defeat me a few years ago – they lost,” Graham stated in the news release, referring to her 2014 election over incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. “They’ve also spent untold millions buying off Tallahassee politicians and trying to destroy local control. When I’m governor, they will lose again. If Tallahassee politicians fail to pass common sense gun safety, I’ll make sure local governments can step in and do the job the NRA sellouts in Tallahassee refuse to.”

In addition to defending home rule, Graham has also released a full gun safety plan that includes banning the sale of military-style assault weapons, implementing universal background checks, and investing more in mental health to prevent future tragedies.

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