As Steve Berke plotted his second run for mayor of Miami Beach, he assembled a campaign team, crafted a platform, and signed with an agent.
The 32-year-old entertainer hopes to ride his campaign into a starring role on MTV with a reality series based on his civic activism. He’s promising a more sober pursuit of Miami Beach’s top elected office, abandoning the pranks and one-liners that made him something of a media star when he took on incumbent Mayor Matti Bower in 2011.
“Our agents pitched this as a compelling story,’’ Berke said in an interview. “It’s about my struggle to get younger people interested in municipal elections.”
Berke sees his ambitious plan for a bay-spanning gondola as proof of his turn from novelty candidate to a returning contender with serious ideas after a strong second-place finish in 2011. And he’s not the first to mix city politics with reality television; Commissioner Michael Góngora last year was trailed by camera crews as part of his effort to pitch to E! a reality-show based on his civic life.
But while Berke’s 2011 run earned him national attention that ended with his loss on Election Day, this time around his run may bring him something more enduring. He said MTV has agreed to air at least one documentary about him on MTV2 and that, if all goes well, it would become a series — win or lose.
At a Wednesday morning event where Berke announced his campaign platform, media and guests had to sign waivers allowing them to be filmed for a show. A cameraman from a New York production company shot footage of him greeting supporters, and conducting interviews with local reporters.
Berke’s 2011 run earned national attention for his bad-boy approach to local politics. He rapped in a campaign video that “I am running to be mayor, yo,” declared himself a member of the “After Party,” endorsed same-sex marriage because “gay people have the right to lose half their s--t in a divorce like the rest of us,’’ and brought a saxophone player to City Hall to accompany his denunciation of Bower’s tenure.
But on Wednesday, Berke said he was leaving those antics behind in favor of a serious take on his hometown city’s challenges.
With a speech free of punch lines, Berke unveiled a six-year plan to reign in police misconduct, address the city’s flooding woes, tackle pension liabilities, and spend nearly $500 million on a gondola system that would link the Miami waterfront with a new “DecoTram” light-rail system in Miami Beach. He sees the system as a way to both alleviate traffic congestion and a global tourist attraction – and a better use of public funds than the planned $1 billion renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center that voters will consider in November. “Close your eyes for a moment and join me in 2020,’’ Berke told the crowd. “Stretching out in front of you is the Sky Link, the coolest, most iconic public transportation system in the world.”
“All the schtick is gone this time around,’’ he said in an interview before the event. “This year’s campaign is a completely different campaign and under a different brand. I’ve retired from comedy.”
But can Berke retire his role as comic relief? And with a television show that began filming him just a week ago, will he remain so serious?