Philip Levine Archives - Page 3 of 43 - Florida Politics

Voters to decide contentious primary races

By late Tuesday night, it will be better known how much sway President Donald Trump holds among Republican voters.

Meanwhile, Democrats will decide if they are marching for governor in the year of the woman, or if they want to elect the state’s first African-American governor or a wealthy, progressive businessman.

In the top-of-the-ticket governor’s race, Democrats will pick from among former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor and businessman Philip Levine, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King.

Republican voters will settle months of fighting between Congressman Ron DeSantis, Trump’s endorsed candidate for governor, and Adam Putnam, the state’s two-term Agriculture Commissioner.

Voters in both parties also will choose nominees to replace term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi and to succeed Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner.

The Republican contest for attorney general has emerged as the most divisive of the Cabinet contests. State Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican, continues to hammer his primary opponent, former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, over her family’s part in a condominium-development lawsuit against Trump nearly a decade ago and for having once been a registered Democrat.

In a new 30-second ad by White, an announcer proclaims, “Ashley Moody was a lifelong Democrat.” The ad includes an edited part of an audio clip from a TV reporter who said, “It’s true Ashley Moody was first a registered Democrat, but it’s false she has been her whole life. She entered college as a Democrat and in her 20s became a Republican.”

However, in the ad, the audio says: “It’s true Ashley Moody was registered Democrat,” with “first a” edited out. The ad also does not include the explanation about Moody becoming a Republican.

Moody’s campaign, which has the backing of Bondi, has labeled White a “car salesman turned politician” with no prosecutorial experience. White is a freshman legislator who is an executive of a chain of family-owned auto dealerships.

The Democratic primary for attorney general also has included animosity, with Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa filing a lawsuit arguing that his opponent, Hillsborough County lawyer Ryan Torrens, should be decertified as a candidate. Shaw has alleged Torrens improperly used a check written in his wife’s name to help cover the qualifying fee for the Cabinet race. Torrens has countersued for libel.

The tone has a been a little more tempered in the races for agriculture commissioner.

In the Republican contest, Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers has lately campaigned in South Florida with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. State Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring has rolled out her own big-name endorsements, while former state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven has used his personal wealth to fund ads.

A fourth Republican candidate, Plant City palm-tree farmer and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister, is running his third statewide campaign and has had little money to get his message out.

On the Democratic side of the race for agriculture commissioner, Fort Lauderdale lawyer and medical-marijuana advocate Nikki Fried has been scoring free media. Fried went public this week with a dispute about Wells Fargo dropping her campaign account because of her links to the medical-marijuana industry.

Otherwise, Fried and her primary opponents, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and environmental scientist Roy David Walker of Fort Lauderdale, have struggled for funding and attention compared to the other Cabinet contests.

A number of Congressional primaries are also drawing heavy attention heading into Tuesday.

The retirement of longtime Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has attracted nine Republicans and five Democrats for the Congressional District 27 seat in Miami-Dade County.

The Democratic contenders include former University of Miami President Donna Shalala and state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach. Among the Republicans are former state Rep. Bruno Barreiro, Cuban-American broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Doral Vice Mayor Bettina RodriguezAguilera.

Democrats, meanwhile, are watching a primary in North Florida’s Congressional District 5, where former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is trying to oust U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. Also, they are watching the primary in Central Florida’s Congressional District 9, where former Congressman Alan Grayson is trying to wrest the Democratic nomination away from U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

Additional Republican retirements have created competitive primaries in other parts of the state.

Republicans are looking to replace retiring Congressman Dennis Ross in Congressional District 15 with a GOP field of five candidates who include former state Rep. Neil Combee of Auburndale and state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover.

To replace U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Congressional District 17, a contentious primary fight has emerged among state Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, state Rep. Julio Gonzalez of Venice, and Bill Akins of Port Charlotte.

Another race that, at least officially, must be watched Tuesday is the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Gov. Rick Scott has the low hurdle of defeating San Diego businessman Rocky De La Fuente — who has already lost races for the U.S. Senate this year in California, Minnesota, Washington and Wyoming — before facing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Legislatively, the biggest fights will occur in the November general election.

Going into Tuesday’s primaries, Democrats are assured of holding 27 state House seats heading in the 2019 legislative session and 15 seats in the Senate. They will also hold five seats in Congress.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assured of occupying 12 state House seats, eight seats in the Senate and none in Congress.

The numbers are based on a lack of primary opposition, candidates who will face only write-in opposition in November and members of the Senate who are not up for election this year.

Counted among the Republican gains is House District 56 in DeSoto, Hardee and part of Polk counties. The race, featuring a pair of Republican candidates, was moved to the November ballot after a write-in candidate who had closed the primary withdrew from the contest.

The remaining 81 House races, 17 Senate contests and 22 congressional races are being contested, mostly between Republicans and Democrats. In some cases, independents or third-party candidates are also on the slate.

Jeff Greene going back up on TV Monday

In the ever-changing landscape of the Florida Democratic gubernatorial race heading into Tuesday, Jeff Greene is back.

The day after the Palm Beach businessman, who had been running a distant fourth in polls, started pulling all his television commercials, he has reconsidered. Jeff Greene for governor commercials will start running again on Monday in Jacksonville, Orlando, and South Florida, his campaign announced Friday.

Campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said a recent poll showing Greene running second behind Gwen Graham helped lead the campaign to reconsider, and leave commercials already set to air Monday in place, rather than cancel them.

The campaign has more than $100,000 worth of commercials ready to roll

“It’s a race toward the finish line. We’re going to be firing on all cylinders,” she said.

In most polls Greene is running well back of Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahasssee, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and a few percentage points back of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, though ahead of Winter Park businessman Chris King. That was his position in the polls despite the fact that Greene had spent $29 million of his own money, mostly on television and mail advertising this summer.

On Thursday Greene’s campaign announced he was pulling back from TV commercials and public appearances, but would be focusing on marshaling his ground game, paid staff and volunteers statewide seeking to get Greene voters out to vote.

That effort is continuing VanSusteren said Friday.

Buddy Dyer endorses Gwen Graham

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has endorsed Gwen Graham in the governor’s race, her campaign announced Friday.

Dyer, mayor of the City Beautiful for 15 years and with with enough statewide recognition that he was considered a possible strong candidate to run for governor himself this year, matches up well political with Graham’s more moderate Democratic views.

“Here in Orlando, together we have transformed our community by creating an inclusive place, where people from all walks of life have united behind the shared goal of creating opportunities for everyone.” Dyer stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “Gwen Graham has spent her life bringing people together to solve problems. She has spent a tremendous amount of time here in Orlando over the last year, and she understands how the state of Florida can be a true partner to help Orlando grow into the future.”

Dyer, the dean of Florida’s big-city mayors, was elected in 2003. He is the longest-serving mayor in Orlando history, and is popular enough that he is in line for what likely will be another easy re-election in 2019.

“We want to make sure our Orlando community has a loud voice in selecting our next governor, and I hope people will join me tomorrow in casting an early ballot for Gwen,” he stated in the release.

The Central Florida Democratic political leaders’ endorsements in the governor’s race have largely been split between Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, with Chris King and Philip Levine each also picking up a couple of key backers.

Dyer is the the biggest available.

Graham also has gotten the backing of state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart; and state Reps. Amy Mercado and John Cortes, among others. Gillum’s endorsements have included those from State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, and state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Kamia Brown. King’s most notable Orlando backer is former Orange County Chair Linda Chapin. Levine has Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, plus the mayors of San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico, who have considerable influence in Central Florida’s large Puerto Rican community.

Graham, Gillum, Levine, King, and Jeff Greene have a showdown Tuesday for the Democratic nomination. Orlando, as always, is a key swing area in the election.

“Orlando is a real example of what Florida can be, a place with a growing economy, shared prosperity, and a community open to a diversity of ideas,” Graham stated in the release. “Mayor Dyer has accomplished these goals by bringing together people from different perspectives, forcing compromise to solve problems, while at the same time never backing down from his progressive values. I am honored by his support, and eager to work with him to move Florida forward.”

Philip Levine confident during final Early Voting push

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, per recent polling of the Democratic side of the Florida Governor’s race, is in the game as Early Voting wraps up in just two days.

A recent tracking poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design, shows Levine leading former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham 26 percent to 25 percent among all Democrats surveyed, 27 to 25 among those who’ve already voted, and 28 to 27 among those who definitely intend to vote.

Other polls show different numbers, but the consistent trend is Graham and Levine atop the polls, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the mix also. Billionaire Jeff Greene, in what seems like a nod to the emergent reality, has pulled his TV ads.

At this point, there’s little left for any of these candidates (except Greene) to do but continue to execute their plans. Levine already has a closing argument TV spot up, and after months of active campaigning, the endgame for the primary struggle is on.

Levine, in Jacksonville Friday as part of a swing through three markets (Orlando and Tampa area stops being the other two), spoke to Florida Politics by phone en route to a television interview.

As has been the case throughout this run, he is confident that his strategy will prevail despite formidable competition.

“It’s a tight race,” Levine said, with “consistent polls,” a race that will come down to the ground game.

And, despite indications that a key Graham demo (women) are dominating the early vote thus far with 61 percent of the participation (nearly a third of that being white women over 50 years old), Levine does not believe that demographic is voting monolithically.

“I don’t believe people vote that way,” Levine said, “Those days are over.”

The same holds true for African-Americans and Gillum, Levine thinks, even as 21 percent African-American vote share thus far suggests that Gillum’s surge is a real thing.

“We don’t see it,” Levine said, noting that Gillum endorser Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t do well with African-American voters in 2016.

Levine also touched on the mercurial campaign of Jeff Greene, suggesting that his self-funded efforts made the case for campaign finance reform.

“Repeal Citizens United,” Levine said, suggesting Greene was “running for the wrong reasons” and using “unlimited” financial resources to buy “false, misleading, fictitious ads.”

The race had not been particularly negative until Greene’s entry. Win or lose, Levine will do “everything [he] can” to help the nominee.

Thus far, that willingness to let bygones be bygones doesn’t seem to exist on the Republican side of the race.

Blue wave? Red tide? Election answers could be in numbers

After months of envisioning a “blue wave” because of voters tired of President Donald Trump, Florida Democrats say they still see a swell coming amid an increase in mail-in ballots compared to the 2014 midterm elections.

But Republicans point to a GOP lead in votes already cast for Tuesday’s primaries as a sign that Democratic voters have a “lack of enthusiasm” for candidates at the top of the ticket and that the lack of enthusiasm will translate down the ballot.

More than 1.38 million votes had been cast as of Thursday morning through mail-in ballots or early voting for the primaries. But political experts were cautious about drawing conclusions from the numbers, as both parties gear up for the November general election, which will include choosing a governor and a U.S. senator.

“Should be interesting to see if there is energy on either side that is not typical for a midterm election,” said Florida Atlantic University political-science professor Kevin Wagner.

Wagner said people trying to decipher the primary results to find trends for the general election need to look at party turnout and then mine the demographics of voters.

“Are younger voters participating at higher rates?” he said. “This might give us some clues about the November electorate.”

Susan MacManus, a distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida, said an indication of enthusiasm will initially be based on the turnout percentages of the parties. However, a deeper dive will occur after the primary, as more demographic data is released about turnout rates among Democrats by gender, age, race and media-market location.

“Democrats are banking on higher-than-usual turnout among female, minority and younger registrants,” MacManus said. “Democrats will also be carefully analyzing turnout rates in Southeast Florida counties, especially Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. Over the last couple of election cycles, Democrats have lost statewide races because of lagging turnout in these counties.”

Further analyses will then go into evaluating open congressional and legislative seats, she said.

“Who wins here? Among Democrats, who wins these seats?” MacManus said in an email. “Any pattern by ideology (progressives), gender (females), younger first-time candidates or established candidates? Among Republicans, level of support for Trump, region of the state and type of location (rural, suburban, urban)?”

The parties are already watching voters who have been to the polls and who will cast ballots over the next few days, but they’re not waiting for the final numbers to project general-election trends.

Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Caroline Rowland compared the votes already cast this year to the same point in 2014 as she expressed optimism about the fall races.

Rowland said that with special-election victories, “growing voter turnout and a record number of Democratic candidates helping to turn out Democratic voters in every corner of the state, Florida Democrats feel good about our chances in November.”

As of Thursday morning, 646,706 Republicans and 579,672 Democrats had cast ballots. Republicans were up by more than 60,000 in vote-by-mail ballots — 481,149 to 419,480 — and by 5,000 in people who had gone to early-voting locations.

Four years ago, with about a week remaining before the 2014 midterm primaries, Republicans were ahead of Democrats in vote-by-mail ballots 438,893 to 360,387 and were edging Democrats 135,539 to 135,494 in early voting.

Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political strategy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is in the camp of people who say that based on the turnout so far, Democrats won’t see their envisioned midterm bump.

“No one knows exactly what the outcome of the primaries will be, so this could change, but right now, there is just not any massive blue wave coming in Florida,” Johnson said.

The Republican Party of Florida also points to the lack of a dominant candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. A Florida Atlantic University poll this week, for example, had former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee atop the Democratic field with 29 percent of the vote. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had 17 percent, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Palm Beach investor Jeff Greene, who both had 11 percent. Chris King, a Winter Park businessman, had 10 percent.

“If the (gubernatorial) nominee gets approximately 30 to 33-percent, that means that Florida Dems will have a much harder time unifying for the general election because nearly two-thirds of their most loyal voters do not have their first choice,” state Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said.

The same poll, however, showed Congressman Ron DeSantis up 32 percent to 31-percent over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican gubernatorial primary. The poll indicated 22 percent of GOP voters were undecided.

Ingoglia also indicated that the early Republican lead in primary voting is a sign that a blue wave isn’t in Florida’s near future.

“From what we are seeing right now, the Florida Dems turnout is low, which points to lack of enthusiasm about their candidates,” Ingoglia said. “This will surely bleed over into the general election.”

Chris King calls for ‘universal condemnation’ of Joel Greenberg remarks

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Thursday for his election rivals to join him in denouncing Islamaphobia and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg for promoting it in social media.

King, the Winter Park businessman running, in most polls, fifth among five Democratic candidates heading toward Tuesday’s primary election, has turned his attention toward Greenberg this week while pushing his campaign theme of racial and ethnic equality.

Greenberg’s comments, King declared Thursday, “deserve our universal condemnation.”

Greenberg entered the sights of King’s themed campaign stretch-run message Saturday when he posted a comment on Facebook that many took as anti-Muslim, sarcastically contending that Muslims had contributed nothing to civilized societies. Greenberg then engaged in a Twitter storm Monday night defending it, while threatening and insulting others.

Greenberg, a Republican, has declined to comment about the matter to Florida Politics.

On Tuesday King and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum denounced Greenberg. On Wednesday King joined a protest rally outside Greenberg’s Lake Mary office.

The other Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene had not released any statements on Greenberg’s comments or Islamaphobia since the the matter broke.

Until now. Greene quickly joined King’s call Thursday.

“As we end one of the holiest weeks for Muslims across Florida, this moment demands more than just conventional politics – an apology isn’t enough. The Seminole County Tax Collector needs to resign and today I’m calling on my fellow #FLGov candidates to join my call,” King tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“I agree with @ChrisKingFL, and I’m joining him in calling for Joel Greenberg to resign,” Greene tweeted back a few minutes after King’s tweet.

King, who vowed Wednesday to complete his gubernatorial primary campaign by campaigning on racial justice issues, declared in a news release: “This moment demands more than just conventional politics from the political establishment, and I’m calling on my fellow candidates for governor to condemn these hateful comments and demand the Seminole County Tax Collector resign his office.”

Fading in polls, Jeff Greene pulls remaining TV ads

Where is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene these last few days before Tuesday’s primary election? Not on TV. Not out in public.

The Palm Beach businessman who barreled into the race in early June and became omnipresent on TV through much of the summer is stepping out of the spotlight for the final push, his campaign is saying. Greene’s campaign is essentially going dark with six days left before the end of primary voting, putting energy into “grassroots” efforts.

He is focusing on mobilizing his organization for get-out-the-vote efforts and to get paid staffers and volunteers to lead the way with more intimate messaging on his behalf, while pulling campaign ads and limiting public appearances, according to a campaign spokesman.

Greene is running fourth in most polls, well back of the Democratic gubernatorial campaign leaders Philip Levine and Gwen Graham. But there will be no desperate, last-minute mass appeal to Florida Democrats.

Greene has spent more than $29 million, most of it on TV commercials and mailers, in the two months ending with the latest campaign finance reports, Aug. 10. But those are gone for the last few days.

“We’ve gotten our message out big with TV ad buys at a time when audiences were paying attention — and we’ve stayed in touch with voters and supporters. The last week of the campaign, the airwaves are flooded with political ads and no one is paying active attention,” his campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren told Florida Politics in a written response to an inquiry about what’s going on.

“Jeff Greene has shifted his focus to ground game and get out the vote efforts in communities across Florida. The Jeff Greene campaign has volunteers and community organizers statewide, 100 paid phone bankers, well over 400 paid canvassers, and field offices in Gainesville, Orlando, Sanford, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and several offices in Miami,” she continued. “Others may choose to go big on already over-saturated airwaves, but you don’t become a billionaire by being conventional.

“Jeff Greene is still campaigning to win and focusing on getting his voters to the polls,” she continued.

As she said, it’s not conventional. Levine, Graham, Andrew Gillum, and Chris King are continuing to campaign with multi-stop days set into bus tours, with rallies, meetings with outside groups, a Jimmy Buffett campaign concert [for Graham], workdays, and other public appearances scheduled well into the weekend.

They’re not saying much about Greene’s strategy, perhaps except for the campaign of King, who’s the only Democrat trailing Greene in most polls.

“Chris is leaving it all out on the field and working his tail off in these final days,” said his campaign spokesperson Caitlin Lang, “barnstorming across the state on his ‘Fearless for Florida’ bus tour and bringing his closing message of racial justice and fighting institutional racism to more than 25 counties over the last two weeks.”

Philip Levine makes closing argument in ‘Florida’s Moment’ TV spot

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, polling at or near the top of the field of Florida Democrats running for Governor in most recent surveys, released a closing argument TV spot Thursday that distilled the major themes of his campaign.

The ad represents a real contrast to the pugnacity of recent weeks in the campaign, re-establishing themes of unity that any of the five candidates in the Democratic field could endorse.

According to the Levine campaign: “The new ad focuses on what’s at stake in this election and Florida’s chance to reach its full potential and become a state with real gun safety laws, safer schools, a 21st-century economy, and stronger environmental protection policies. Backed by a seven-figure buy, this ad will run in markets across the state until the end of Florida’s primary election.”

“This election is about more than any one person; it’s about Florida’s future, our future. Democrats must stand strong against the divisiveness coming from Washington and offer a positive, compelling vision of what Florida and our nation can be, and Philip Levine has that vision,” asserted Levine senior adviser Christian Ulvert.

“As an entrepreneur who built companies from scratch and a two-term Mayor who delivered results, Philip Levine is the candidate who’s focused on the future — he sees the potential of our great state and knows that together, we can build a Florida where everyone has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” Ulvert added.

The spot shows Levine in a studio, asserting that “this is our moment to show America that when people pull together there is nothing that we will not do to make life better for everyone.”

Chris King still pushing ideas as campaign end appears to loom

Democrat Chris King started his run for Governor in his own back yard — literally — declaring he would run a race based on ideas and detailed plans for a progressive governorship.

On Wednesday, he came home where it started, back to the Hillcrest Hampton House Senior Center he owns in Orlando, still pushing those ideas.

“I promised that before this election was ended, I would come back around, and come back here,” King told a gathering of mostly senior citizen residents of the Hillcrest Hampton House. “We are just days away from a historic election, and I’m in a tough race. We’ve got, I’d say, billionaires and bazillionaires down south, we’ve got people with famous families.”

And they’ve got commanding leads over him.

All recent polls of the five-person Democratic primary race show that King’s campaign is the political equivalent of being at least two touchdowns behind with 20 seconds left on the clock. And though everyone knows it, there’s no acknowledgment that victory isn’t possible — because there’s always hope for a Hail Mary, an onside kick recovery, and another Hail Mary.

Still, there’s already talk of a game played right.

“But what I think has set us apart in this race and has made us special if you’ve followed it closely, is we are trying to bring the best ideas,” King told the seniors, ticking off a few, including his detailed plans for affordable housing, justice reform, free community college and trade schools, and environmental protection.

All recent polls have the Winter Park businessman, once seen as a viable candidate, running a distant fifth out of five Democrats, typically pulling only single-digit support, sometimes as high as 10, sometimes as low as 2. That, after 17 months of campaigning.

The race now appears to be either former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine‘s or former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s to lose; with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum making a late charge from well back, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene is falling out of contention, but still staying ahead of King.

King said Wednesday he’s trying to close on ideas, specifically on his ideas for justice reform, civil rights and fairness, “and so I’m ending with taking on what I call institutional racism in the state of Florida, taking on laws and policies that are not fair for people based on the color of their skin or where they’re from.”

That has focused much of his activities over the past couple of weeks and into the next six days. Meeting with the family of slain “Stand Your Ground” victim Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater. Speaking before a Muslim conference in Orlando. Calling for removal of a Confederate monument in Walton County. Talking about the history of lynchings with the NAACP at “the hanging tree” in Hernando County. And joining a protest Wednesday outside the office of Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, after his anti-Muslim social media comments.

“And it’s been so gratifying,” King added.

King also laid out some of the things he said made him an unusual candidate, and one elderly woman in the group called out: “You’re better looking!”

There’s always that.

Philip Levine talks home stretch in Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum territory

Philip Levine believes his primary bid for Governor will come down to the wire on Tuesday, and the winner will undoubtedly face Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.

Levine spoke briefly with reporters Wednesday in the capital city, where he’ll reside if he’s victorious in the Aug. 28 primary and the following general election. Tallahassee is home to Democratic opponent Gwen Graham, who’s slightly ahead and in some cases behind Levine in most public polls. It’s also the stomping grounds of the city’s Mayor, Andrew Gillum.

“I understand myself and Gwen are right at the top,” Levine said shortly before a new poll gave him a one-point lead over the former Congresswoman. He’s aware the race could be a photo finish but believes his enormous investment in ground efforts — including 14 satellite campaign offices peppered across the state — will help him prevail. He spoke to supporters at Florida State University earlier on Wednesday and plans to hit the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida before the day’s end.

While confident but ultimately uncertain in his own race, Levine offered no wiggle room in the Republican primary: DeSantis, the Donald Trump-backed Ponte Vedra Congressman, will be the nominee.

A matchup against DeSantis, Levine said, means a fight against the President.

“I believe I’m the right one to go toe-to-toe,” the former Mayor of Miami Beach said. “This is going to be a fight between the Democratic nominee and the White House.”

He was asked whether his anti-Trump messaging was influenced by Democratic opponent Jeff Greene’s self-depiction of being Trump’s adversary, especially through television ads.

Not so. He said he began to bring up Trump “when the Donald got more involved in Florida.”

The President intervened in late June when he formally backed DeSantis on Twitter. Trump followed that endorsement with a campaign rally alongside DeSantis in late July.

Levine, who has had recent beef with Greene via battling television ads, also took a shot at the Palm Beach billionaire’s latest dip in the polls.

“We don’t have to worry about him too much anymore,” Levine said. “Based on the recent polls, I don’t think he’s too relevant anymore.”

Greene on Monday pledged to spend $5 million to get Democrats elected down the ballot, including those in hotly contested races to take back the state Senate.

Levine dismissed that as a political strategy and questioned whether Greene would still spend big on the party if he doesn’t get past the primary. He also contrasted himself with Greene, saying that before the race he spent “millions” to get Democrats elected.

“People talk about all of the things they’re going to do in the future,” Levine said. “They never talk about the things they’ve actually done.”

We asked Levine what he thinks of the Gillum campaign’s claim that their candidate is surging. Most recent polls have Gillum at third, an indubious jump that followed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement of and two rallies alongside Gillum. And Gillum’s campaign released results of an internal survey on Tuesday showing the Tallahassee Mayor leading both Graham and Levine by 10 points.

“I can’t comment on someone’s internal poll,” Levine said. But noted the results are an outlier from his constant internal polling and public polls.

He added: “We’ll know Tuesday night how accurate they are.”  

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