TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Adding to Democratic drama in advance of this weekend's election of a state party chief, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced Thursday he's "exploring" a possible statewide run and won't seek another term in his current office.
Levine --- long rumored to be eyeing a run for governor in 2018 --- made the announcements Thursday morning in a decidedly campaign-ish "State of the City" video in which he boasted that the city is "stronger, healthier and more resilient" after his two terms at the helm.
"Almost every major objective I envisioned for our city is either in motion, planned or been accomplished," Levine said, adding that he now looks forward "to exploring ways of how best to serve both my community and my state."
Levine could be in for a crowded Democratic primary next year: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan are mulling possible bids for governor, as well.
"What I think this proves, with all these people that have shown overtures to explore running for governor, is that the bench is full here in Florida as far as Democrats," Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon told The News Service of Florida on Thursday. "There are plenty of Democrats who are qualified candidates to run for statewide office, and we have been building and cultivating our bench, whether it be mayors of our large cities, whether it be legislators. These are people who have strong Democratic principles and have the ability to fundraise and galvanize our base."
Levine's political consultant Christian Ulvert said in a statement that the mayor will spend the next few months traveling the state "to listen to Floridians on how best to serve the state he loves."
Trying to elect a Democratic governor in 2018 will be a key role for the next chair of the party. Democrats will gather Saturday in Orlando to choose a successor to Chairwoman Allison Tant, who decided against seeking another term. Five candidates are seeking the chairmanship.