Jeff Greene draws curious elected officials, notes his ‘crazy amount of wealth’ at Palm Beach event

Democratic candidate for governor Jeff Greene, left, talks to Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters and Masters’ sister, Cora Masters Barry, at Greene’s Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa on Wwednesday night. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — About 100 people showed up Wednesday evening at Jeff Greene‘s Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa for a meet-and-greet event with Greene, the billionaire real estate investor making a lavishly self-financed Democratic bid for governor.

Whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination for governor, Jeff Greene has clinched the catering primary with Wednesday night offerings that included shrimp, lobster, bruschetta and beef kebabs. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Attendees included Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Paulette Burdick, who said she’s looking for a candidate to support, and Mack Bernard, who’s backing Andrew Gillum for governor but wanted to check out Greene. Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters was there in a listening mode as well.

Also attending — but not necessarily endorsing — were Palm Beach Town Councilman Lew Crampton, South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer, South Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Stella Jordan and former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio.

“I’m watching and I’m listening. I need someone that I can support to be our next governor in the state of Florida. It’s vitally important that we elect a Democrat,”said Burdick, who said she was “impressed” by Greene’s detailed response to her question about a state affordable housing trust fund.

A Florida Atlantic University poll released Wednesday afternoon shows Greene, who entered the race last month, within striking distance of Democratic leaders Gwen Graham and Philip Levine as the Aug. 28 primary approaches.

Greene and his four Democratic primary foes share similar liberal stances on education, the environment, gun control, abortion rights and other issues. But Greene, who has already poured more than $10 million of his own money into his campaign and launching a new $3.2 million TV ad blitz today, told the crowd his wealth can lift Democrats from their two-decade losing streak in governor’s races and help other Democrats on the ballot.

“I’ve been blessed with this crazy amount of wealth that I could never spend. We’re planning on giving it away to make a difference in people’s lives but can you imagine the difference I could make by being the first governor in 20 years in the state of Florida from the Democratic Party?” Greene told the crowd.

Fielding audience questions, Greene was asked how he’d work with the Republican-controlled Legislature if he’s elected. He didn’t concede that the GOP will keep the Senate, where it has a 23-16 advantage now.

“We have five Senate races that are winnable. I’ve met them all,” said Greene, who said he’s ready to give financial help to down-ballot candidates if he’s the party nominee.

Jeff Greene says he’ll open his checkbook for other Democrats if he’s the party’s nominee for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“You can’t win an election if you have both your arms tied behind your back in a fight. And I think this time, thanks to my good fortune, I have the ability to go toe-to-toe, and I intend to do it, with these Republicans,” Greene said.

If Democrats can win the state Senate, Greene added, “maybe then some of those unreasonable folks on the other side of the aisle in the House will think, ‘You know, let’s not mess with Jeff Greene, let’s not mess with this new Democratic governor.'”

West Palm Beach Democratic Club President Jim Gibbs, emphasizing that he was speaking personally and not as a party official, said he’s supporting Greene because of his deep pockets.

“I think that he has the one weapon the Democrats have been missing for winning statewide races. I think that all five candidates are the same for the issues. We get to 49 percent, 49.5 percent and lose because we can’t match the Republicans with money,” Gibbs said in an interview.

“Florida’s a Democratic state and we lose because we don’t get out the vote. So I think his money is the difference between victory and defeat. I hate to be so Macchiavellian about it….We’ve got to win,” Gibbs said.