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Veteran Lobbyist Bob Levy Dies

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

 "Levites," a cadre of lobbyists, legislators and aides who credit veteran lobbyist Robert M. Levy for their entrance into the cutthroat world of Florida politics, are mourning the loss of their mentor, who died Tuesday in Tallahassee after a lengthy battle with salivary-gland cancer.

Levy, who was 67, was one of a handful of remaining old-school lobbyists who, until his death, spent decades representing numerous Miami-Dade County interests.
Levy was also a decorated war veteran who earned three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, for which he also was awarded a Silver Star and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, according to his close associate Jose Diaz.

"What can I say? Bob was a father to so many. There are so many people working in this process that we call 'Levites,' " Diaz said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

Levy's list of protégés includes state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and former state Rep. J.C. Planas.

"There's such a web of people in the political process that got their start from Robert M. Levy and Associates. That's Bob's legacy. Bob was always about helping the small people, and giving everybody a chance," said Diaz, who worked for Levy for 27 years.

Levy battled with salivary-gland cancer, which doctors believed may have been related to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, for more than a decade, Diaz said.

The soft-spoken Levy, who sported a Van Dyke, was too ill to return to his Miami home after the legislative session ended in March, according to Diaz, who intends to take over Levy's lobbying practice.

"He was a man of his word. The guy was a man of integrity. We've had several deals over the years. We've never had a written agreement, and unfortunately in our business that's not the case anymore," said veteran lobbyist Ron Book, who is also based in Miami-Dade County. "His favorite line was, 'Call Ron Book. When you realize you can't afford him, call me for the blue-light special.' "

Levy was "an amazing person in the political process," fellow lobbyist Dave Ericks said.

"He was one of the most unique individuals who only come along a few times in your lifetime," Ericks said.

Levy's crowning achievement after more than three decades as a lobbyist may have come shortly before his death.

After more than 25 years, lawmakers this session approved a proposal that would allow advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe controlled substances. Advanced registered nurse practitioners have lobbied for years for the prescribing authority but have faced opposition from doctor groups. The proposal is awaiting action from Gov. Rick Scott.

Levy is survived by his sister, Ricci Levy, and brother-in-law, Richard Levy. Levy's body will be transported to Philadelphia, where his family owns the oldest Jewish cemetery in continuous existence, according to Diaz.

"When you became a Levite, he gave you the shirt off his back. He was a brother to me," Diaz said.

Levy's war experience may have primed him for the cutthroat world of Tallahassee politics. As an 18-year-old fighting in the Vietnam War, Levy was one of 13 men who survived what became known as the battle on "Hill 875."

Diaz said Levy told him of encountering a Viet Cong soldier in a fox hole.

"He fought the guy to his death, killed the guy with his own hands with a bayonet. There aren't a lot of men like that around these days," Diaz said.