Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham — rivals in Florida’s Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary — have released dueling TV ads and campaign statements over a massive mall project planned for a 175-acre Miami-Dade parcel that includes land owned by a company founded and controlled by Graham’s family.
Greene and another Democratic candidate, Winter Park businessman Chris King, brought up the American Dream Mall during a televised debate in Palm Beach Gardens last week, noting that environmentalists oppose the project because it’s relatively close to the Everglades.
Greene followed up with a 30-second TV ad that began airing over the weekend, criticizing “Graham’s mall” and concluding with the words “How can Florida trust her?” on the screen.
Graham responded with an ad of her own today that shows her canoeing with her father, former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.
“A billionaire opponent is attacking me personally – even falsely attacking my dad, Bob Graham. It’s disappointing,” Graham says in the ad. The ad notes that Graham was endorsed Monday by the Everglades Trust.
Everglades Trust Director Kimberly Mitchell has been critical of the mall project, saying: “While we are fighting like the dickens to ensure the survival of the Everglades and the source of drinking water for eight million Floridians, mega-developers and projects like these continue to put it all at risk.”
Graham has tried to distance herself from the Graham Companies. She stepped down from the company’s board after she was elected to Congress in 2014 and has placed her holdings in the company — valued at more than $13.7 million — into a “transparent trust,” her campaign said. Graham has also pledged that, if she’s governor and questions about the project come before state government, she will recuse herself and ask the state’s three elected Cabinet members to decide.
After Graham accused him of attacking her father, Greene’s campaign issued a statement praising Bob Graham’s environmental record while quoting Greene saying: “But Gwen Graham is no Bob Graham.”