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Miami Beach Millionaire Mayor Makes Case For Re-Election

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Self-made millionaire Philip Levine spent about two of those millions getting elected mayor of Miami Beach the first time in 2013, and a quarter million this time around.

"Nice to see you!" Levine declared as he grasped the hand of a supporter Tuesday, Election Day.

Levine is running on a record of accomplishment.

"We began to attack flooding, we're going to be renovating our convention center, we've begun to change the culture of the police department, but two years is a short period of time.  We must finish what we've begun," Levine told CBS4's Gary Nelson at a stop at a voting precinct.

Levine has overseen a massive pump project that's already eliminated tidal flooding on some streets, and is expected to be completed, fixing the flood problem altogether in about three years.

He presided over a difficult debate on convention center improvements that ended with compromise, and brought in a new top cop to clean up a police department infamous for scandal and cronyism.

Levine's lone challenger is attorney David Wieder, a political newcomer.

Wieder waved at passing traffic on a busy street Tuesday and made his Election Day case for office.

"I can restore integrity, trust and responsiveness to city hall, and stop the undue influence of developers," Wieder said.

Wieder says Levine has allowed over-the-top development that has jammed the city's streets with traffic and lowered the quality of life.  His supporters agree, and say pricey high rises have priced many out of housing on the beach.

"I believe that we need to regain and recapture our city," said Loretta Giraldo, a beach resident of 30 years and a Wieder supporter. "We need to make our city livable for all sorts of people."

"We don't want to wind up with a bunch of glass towers and unrestricted development," Wieder said.

Levine makes no apology for bringing development and jobs to the beach.  Developers love him - Weider says too much.

"I think I can do a better job than Philip Levine and I'm not ethically compromised," Wieder said, referencing a political action committee created by a pal of Levine's to back the mayor's campaign.  It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors, including developers, vendors and contractors doing business and seeking project approvals from the city.

Levine dismissed the criticism about the PAC.

"When you don't have a plan, and you don't have a vision, what you do is you personally attack.  That's politics today, so lies are a very common thing," Levine said.  "Everybody has PACS."

The controversial PAC was dissolved though, after Levine came under intense criticism.  He said the donations were returned.

Tuesday, Levine focused his energy on getting re-elected.

"We've made a lot of progress.  We must continue to move Miami Beach forward.  I believe the people of Miami Beach are happy in the way we're going and we must stay the course," Levine said.

Dorian Buchanan emerged after voting at the Botanical Gardens precinct, having cast her ballot for Levine.  She views him as a get it done leader, with valuable experience in running successful businesses.

"I believe he's very professional, and he's gotten a lot done in the two years that he's been in office," Buchanan said.

If money is any predictor, the incumbent Mayor Levine has raised more than $600,000 in his campaign, nearly 30 times that of his rookie opponent.


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