Miami Beach

How does a candidate for governor meet Florida voters? By going to their living rooms.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is running as a Democrat for Florida governor. He’s launching a bus tour next week to elevate his platform outside of South Florida.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is running as a Democrat for Florida governor. He’s launching a bus tour next week to elevate his platform outside of South Florida. Miami Herald

Hoping to get his gubernatorial bid on a roll, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is launching a statewide bus tour next week that will take him out of South Florida and into voters’ homes in his rivals’ backyards.

Levine, who has run an aggressive campaign since officially launching his bid for the Democratic nomination two months ago, plans to hit the road Tuesday. He’ll land in Orlando just before outgoing Gov. Rick Scott launches the 2018 legislative session with his final “State of the State” speech in Tallahassee.

Each visit will take place in someone’s home, according to the campaign.

“This tour begins a conversation we’ve never had, about things we’ve never done, for people who’ve never been given a chance. We’ve heard from Tallahassee. Now, I’m going to make sure they hear from us,” Levine said in a statement. “Tallahassee always tells us what they want us to hear. I’m going around this state to make sure they hear from us. From the living rooms of Florida, we will let Tallahassee know that climate change is real, the minimum wage is unlivable, that drilling off our shores is off-limits, and that taking away our right to home rule is out of the question.”

The trip — which Levine has dubbed the “Live! From Florida’s Living Rooms Bus Tour” — is partly pegged as a retort to Scott’s speech. But it’s also an extension of an early effort to lift the Miami Beach millionaire’s profile outside of South Florida as his opponents stockpile money to spend closer to the election.

Levine’s bus tour comes as polling suggests that all of Florida’s gubernatorial candidates are struggling to elevate their profiles with voters ahead of the August primary. A Gravis Marketing poll conducted in late December showed Levine with 6 percent support, ahead of Chris King (3 percent) but trailing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (12 percent) and former congresswoman Gwen Graham (18 percent).

That poll showed 60 percent of voters remain undecided in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Philip Levine announced his candidacy for Florida governor in a packed room of supporters, friends, and family members in Wynwood on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

On Thursday, Levine’s campaign, which he is partly bankrolling with his own personal wealth, announced it was extending an ad buy across most state markets that began in mid-November and has now reached $1.6 million. He was promptly trolled by the Republican Governors Association, which said he “fails to move the needle.”

After stopping in Orlando, Levine is scheduled to head to Gainesville Tuesday afternoon, followed by stops in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola Wednesday, and Tampa and Fort Myers Thursday. He’ll return to South Florida Friday with stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Key Largo.

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