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Miami Beach Mayoral Candidates Face Off In Final Debate

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) –Three of the four candidates for Miami Beach mayor met for a debate Thursday night at Temple Emanu-El.

Commissioner Michael Góngora did not attend. He was sick with the flu.

Instead, Philip Levine, Steve Berke and Raphael Herman sat down for a question and answer session moderated by CBS 4 anchor Eliott Rodriguez.

After each candidate introduced himself, Rodriguez jumped right in by asking Levine to respond to accusations he made a racist comment at a candidate forum Tuesday.

Levine was called a racist by a debate attendee after he used the Spanish word for "tomorrow" before the word "lazy" to describe some city staffers.

"The most important thing that we need to change, that I've tried to change, and it's not going to be easy, is changing the culture of this government. Changing this culture from one of being "mañana", lazy, pushing things forward, kicking the can down the road," Levine said Tuesday.

The comment drew criticism from some.

At the debate, Levine said it was a "shame" a word is being used to "divide a community."

The candidates were each asked questions on topics ranging from the Miami Beach Convention Center to historical preservation to flooding issues.

Steve Berke, a retired stand-up comedian said he would tackle the flooding problems within three months in office if elected mayor.

He called into question Michael Góngora's much-touted flooding prevention plan.

"The most renowned expert in flooding," Berke said, "says this plan is not going to work."

Berke also took issue with claims he was shooting a reality TV show during the campaign.

He was trailed by a gaggle of photographers on his way in to the debate.

"I am not filming a reality TV show," he said. "We're filming a documentary."

He said his roommate is the cameraman.

The candidates are vying to replace current Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

Term limits prohibit her from running again, though she is going after a commission seat.

Election Day is November 5.

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