Miami Beach

Miami Beach mayor takes on Rick Scott, fueling speculation of 2018 run

Miami Beach mayor proposes minimum-wage hike in defiance of Florida law

A Miami Beach city attorney discusses the reasons behind the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage.
Up Next
A Miami Beach city attorney discusses the reasons behind the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine positioned himself Thursday as a leading Democratic voice against Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in what is perhaps the most concrete sign yet that Levine might seek the state’s highest political office in 2018.

Levine unveiled a radio ad touting his city’s planned vote for a living wage. Here’s the twist: The ad is airing in California, the state Scott just visited in an attempt to recruit companies to Florida. Democrats are pushing the wage issue as a key difference with Republicans in upcoming elections.

“This is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and I want the people of California to know that Miami Beach is about to vote on an historic measure: a living wage for all its residents, one that allows them to not only work here, but live here,” Levine says in the ad, which his office says is airing in the pricey markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The spot says it’s paid for by Levine himself.

Levine scheduled an afternoon news conference in Miami Beach to discuss the ad and “to comment on Governor Rick Scott’s visit to Miami and address his latest trip to California where he took aim at minimum wage policies.”

The press event turned out to be a one-on-one with a Miami Herald reporter after no other news media showed up.

Levine, who was elected to his second two-year term in November, insisted he put out the ad to prove a point about stagnant wages and increasing costs of living in Florida. He also wants to get Scott’s attention about changing state law to let cities set their own wages.

“We wouldn’t want Californians to think that we’re not paying our people properly,” he said.

We wouldn’t want Californians to think that we’re not paying our people properly.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine

During Scott’s trip, he criticized California’s high taxes and labor costs, prompting a backlash from his counterpart, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, and a slew of tough press in the Golden State.

Levine announced Wednesday that he plans to test a 2005 Florida law that bars cities from setting their own minimum wages. He wants Miami Beach to require a minimum of $10.31 an hour in 2017, with a dollar increase per year until it reaches $13.31 in 2020. Florida's current rate is $8.05 an hour.

Scott is term-limited in 2018, and Levine, who is independently wealthy, has been testing the waters to run as a Democrat. He became the first Miami-Dade County elected official to travel to Cuba in March, in a trip that featured all the political trappings of a man set on running for higher office.

Whether he does might depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential race: Levine is friends with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who could reward Levine’s fund-raising and campaigning on her behalf with a spot in her administration if she gets elected.

Even though the radio ad raises Levine’s profile and is the loudest criticism he has leveled against the Republican governor, the mayor maintains that he only has the Beach on his mind. He’s routinely thrust Miami Beach into the national conversation on issues like sea-level rise and U.S.-Cuba relations, and he’s regularly appearing on cable news talk shows to stump for Clinton.

The mayor has also made a habit of professing his love for being Miami Beach mayor when questioned about a gubernatorial run.

“I love what I’m doing,” he said on Thursday. “I want to the the best mayor Miami Beach ever had ... under not circumstances will I take my eyes off the road and take my hands off the wheel.”

He said as of right now, he wants to run for a third term in the Beach. When asked if any Democratic leaders have reached out to recruit him for a bid for higher office, he said no.

“I haven't gotten that 3 a.m. phone call yet,” he said, laughing.

  Comments