News: Beach Mayoral Race Goes National

Miami Beach mayoral hopeful Steve Berke’s offbeat “pro-party” campaign has now netted him wider exposure, with a six-page feature spread in a national men’s magazine.

The June issue of Maxim spotlights the 30-year-old political newcomer’s ambition to become the city’s First Citizen, even going so far as to boldly entitle its profile, “Meet the Next Mayor of Miami Beach.”

Berke, who is hoping to ride to office on a wave of voter support for, among others, the legalization of marijuana and gambling, has a “real shot at election,” so claims the article’s author, Choire Sicha, a former editor for the Manhattan news and gossip blog, Gawker, and most recently the editor of another news-politics-culture site, The Awl.

Throughout the spread, Berke is pictured in a dozen provocative photos, not necessarily the flattering type that most candidates for public office would welcome.

They show him partying with scantily-dressed models and, in a few, being treated to the contents of a vodka bottle poured into his mouth by a bevy of women.  In two photos, he is seen cupping his hands around the bare breasts of a bikinied beauty.

The “whole city outlaws ‘noise’ after 11 p.m.,” the article states, and quotes city commissioner and chamber of commerce president Jerry Libbin (“Seventy-five percent or so of noise complaints are resident to resident.”).

Alluding to the commonplace tension between the local nightclub industry and City Hall:  “I hear quite frequently that it’s very difficult to do business with the city,” Libbin is quoted as saying.  Much of the day-to-day work of city politics, according to him, “is potholes and parking tickets.”

“It’s fair to say that, so far, no one in local politics takes Berke that seriously,” Sicha writes, adding that Libbin says he has never met Berke.

“The electorate,” continues Sicha, “is pretty well in line with [Berke's] platform.  A large number of people do support the decriminalization of marijuana; they like being left alone; they do not enjoy paying taxes; many even support gays’ right to marry.  They also dislike potholes (even as they do not like to pay the taxes to fill them).  Of course, very few of these things are actually in the purview of the mayor, but Berke, not incorrectly, sees the role as brand ambassador for Miami Beach and agitator within the city.  Stunts like unleashing bikini-clad babes on the streets or performing illegal gay marriages wouldn’t directly effect policy change – but they might get media coverage, and, anyway, Berke knows there’s no such thing as negative attention in this age.  There’s only attention.  And attention results in profit, whether for a beach resort town or a comedian’s career – or both at the same time.”

Of the incumbent whom Berke hopes to retire, the profile mentions her only once:

“There are slightly fewer than 100,000 residents in Miami Beach, and as of the last election, fewer than half were registered to vote.  Mayor Matti Herrera Bower (the first female and first Hispanic mayor) won reelection in 2009 with 76 percent of the vote:  just 5,768.  This year will be her last run.”

Roger Stone, a Nixon-Reagan-Bush media veteran who is Berke’s campaign manager, tells the magazine, “The fundamental difference between Steve and his opponent is:  Steve’s interested in growth and making the pie bigger, and she’s interested in cutting the pie in smaller and smaller pieces.”

“I have to build an army and get ready to fight, because it’s war,” the magazine quotes Berke.  “I’ve seen what she can do to me.  She has the image as this nice grandmotherly woman who is so sweet and naive.  Meanwhile, behind closed doors, she’s a bulldog.”

The article describes Bower “as unconcerned, if amused, by Berke’s campaign” and adds that the mayor’s office declined to comment for the article.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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