Miami Beachs mayoral election has attracted the kind of star power and money that has come to be expected of the million-dollar sandbar.
Former President Bill Clinton has dropped by, and eclectic Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson has weighed in. More than a million bucks in campaign expenditures have been made in the fight to become mayor of this brand-name city of 90,000.
The gig pays $10,000 a year, and the mayor only gets one vote out of seven on the City Commission. The job comes with no executive authority.
Hoping to land the post: former comedian Steve Berke, Commissioner Michael Góngora and self-made multimillionaire Philip Levine.
Perennial, fringe candidate Raphael Herman also is running. He claims to have killed Osama bin Laden, solved the Cuban Missile Crisis and to have come up with President John F. Kennedys famous line, Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
The election is Nov. 5. Early voting begins Monday. A likely runoff would be held Nov. 19.
Heres a look at the main contenders.
This time, Steve Berke is serious.
You may remember him from his first run for Miami Beach mayor, when Berke declared himself a member of the after party and interrupted a City Commission meeting with a saxophone player.
That was 2011.
This year, the pot leaf and martini glass have been dropped from his logo, but his campaign is still unconventional: He has traded the jokes for MTV2 cameras. Theyre filming him for a documentary not a reality TV show, Berke says. He insists on the distinction, because reality shows are scripted and staged.
As all of you know, Im not your traditional political candidate, Berke said in a recent debate. Im doing a lot of different things to try to motivate younger, disenfranchised voters to get involved in local elections.
Berke, a 32-year-old Yale grad, says he has retired from comedy and prefers to be called an entertainer. He makes his living off his YouTube channel, where he posts parodies of popular songs. Many of his spoofs support the decriminalization of marijuana. Berke thinks Miami Beach should decriminalize small amounts of pot, which would free up police to target violent crimes. The Beachs November ballot includes a straw ballot referendum on the issue.
Berke said his focus has shifted this year with a platform he calls his 2020 Vision.
The six-year plan centers on a cable car system strung across Biscayne Bay. It would link Miami Beach to the mainland, freeing up traffic along the clogged MacArthur Causeway and solving chronic parking and traffic problems on the Beach.
It will be an iconic tourist bucket-list item, up there with the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye, Berke said.
And it wont cost taxpayers a penny, he claims, because the city could sell the naming rights in a public-private partnership.
He may be on to something: The idea has already piqued the interest of Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group.
Our customers fly into Miami International Airport every day and I think SkyLink is a breathtaking public transportation solution theyd all enjoy, Branson said, according to a news release. Therefore, Id be very interested in sponsoring the SkyLink as a public-private partnership.