Miami Beach

Philip Levine wins Miami Beach mayoral race after recount

Philip Levine greets supporters after winning the Miami Beach mayoral race on November 5, 2013.
Philip Levine greets supporters after winning the Miami Beach mayoral race on November 5, 2013.

Philip Levine will be the next mayor of Miami Beach.

The businessman came out on top Friday afternoon after Miami-Dade election workers recounted votes from Tuesday’s mayoral election.

According to state law, the county elections canvassing board had to conduct the recount because Levine did not get at least 50.5 percent of the vote. After provisional ballots were counted Friday morning, Levine had 50.49 percent.

In the end, he won with 50.48 percent.

Second-place candidate Michael Góngora had about 37 percent, but Levine needed a confirmed majority to avoid a runoff.

Levine, a wealthy businessman with companies in the cruise industry, poured almost $2 million of his own money into the race to become mayor. The job pays only $10,000 a year, and comes with no executive authority.

His money and ties to developers were points of contention on the campaign trail. His competitors accuse Levine of buying his votes. Levine’s campaign flooded mailboxes, TVs and radios with campaign ads.

But Levine paints himself as a populist. He says he knocked on 4,000 doors. He often reminds detractors that he qualified for office by petition — not by paying the required fee.

His message: to bring a business-like mentality to City Hall. He wants to expedite permitting, treat residents like customers and “fix what’s broken.” Levine is also part of a crop of new candidate who favor a smaller renovation of the city-owned convention center. The project, currently estimated at $1 billion, became a major campaign issue.

On the campaign trail, Góngora was attacked for his driving record, including a DUI that was later downgraded to a reckless driving charge. Opponents heaped the city’s problems — flooding, bloated pensions, corruption arrests of city employees — squarely on Góngora’s shoulders.

Former comedian Steve Berke, meanwhile, struggled to be taken seriously after a silly 2011 run. This time around, MTV2 cameras followed him on the campaign trail. Berke says he is the subject of a documentary.

The Beach’s three commission races will go to runoffs. None of the candidates in those races managed to command the majority vote needed to win a seat outright.

For Group I, Realtor Micky Steinberg faces off against retiree Elsa Urquiza. Incumbent Jorge Exposito is up against criminal defense attorney Michael Grieco in the fight for Group II. And in Group III, retired community banker Joy Malakoff faces current Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who decided to run for commission after being term-limited from her current post.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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