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.

 

 

 

 

 

The claim only Gwen Graham can make, featured in new TV ad

New Gwen Graham ad begins by highlighting her status as “proud mom” and “PTA president.”

“Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” says Florida Democratic governor candidate Gwen Graham in a new 30-second TV ad running this week in West Palm Beach and other markets.

In the five-candidate primary, Graham is the only mom — and only woman.

She’s been playing the female card, characterizing the race as “Gwen and the men.”

The ad also notes she’s the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, saying that while Gwen Graham served in Congress she “applied lessons from her father, Bob Graham. Gwen says it’s time to put people first again.”

Graham’s campaign says it has spent a total of $3.85 million on TV ads since the beginning of June.

NBC, CBS polls differ on Scott-Nelson Senate race; Putnam tops DeSantis in GOP governor primary

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

An NBC News/Marist poll released late Tuesday shows Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson edging Republican Gov. Rick Scott in their U.S. Senate race a day after a CBS/YouGov poll gave Scott a slight edge.

The NBC poll gives Nelson a 49-to-45 percent lead over Scott among registered –not likely — voters in a survey with a 3.9 percent margin of error. CBS had Scott leading by a 46-to-41 percent margin among likely voters, but by only 2 points among registered voters. The CBS poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

In other words, considering the margins of error and the more than four months until election day, the Nelson-Scott contest looks close — like Florida’s 2012 and 2016 presidential races and 2010 and 2014 governor’s races, all of which were decided by between 0.9 and 1.2 percentage points.

Not as close, according to NBC, is the Republican primary for governor. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam holds a 38-to-21 percent lead over U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

NBC’s take on the Putnam-DeSantis is similar to the results of a Fox News poll last week that showed Putnam holding a 32-to-17 percent lead.

Both polls offer some hope for DeSantis, who was praised by President Donald Trump on Twitter in December and got the president’s “full endorsement” on Friday. NBC and Fox both found 39 percent of Republican primary voters are undecided ahead of the Aug. 28 primary.

In the five-candidate Democratic primary for governor, NBC finds the race up for grabs. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine tops the field at 19 percent and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham gets 17 percent in a sample that has a 6.5 percent margin of error. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (8 percent), billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene (4 percent) and Winter Park businessman Chris King (3 percent) round out the Democratic field with 47 percent of voters undecided.

Five Dem governor candidates heading to Broward County this weekend

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, who’s also chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, outside state party headquarters in Tallahassee in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

All five Florida Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine — are scheduled to appear in Broward County this weekend for the Florida Democratic Party’s annual Leadership Blue Gala, but no debate is scheduled.

Each of the candidates is hosting a welcome reception Friday night at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood and will be available to interact with party activists at a “meet the candidates” event Saturday afternoon. Each candidate also gets a three-minute speaking slot at a dinner Saturday night.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which hasn’t had a Florida representative in this millennium — will be the keynote speaker. U.S. House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn and Sen. Bill Nelson are also featured attractions.

Three-term incumbent Nelson faces the re-election fight of his life this year against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. And Democrats are hoping to win a Florida governor’s race for the first time since 1994, when Lawton Chiles squeaked to a second term against Republican Jeb Bush.

The Leadership Blue weekend is the state party’s main fundraising event. This is the first one under Terrie Rizzo, the Palm Beach County Democratic chair who was elected state chairwoman in December.

 

Dems’ net worth: $3 billion-plus gap between candidates for governor

Florida Democratic candidates for governor, alphabetically from left: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum often describes himself as the only non-millionaire in the crowded Democratic primary for Florida governor.

Financial disclosure reports released Monday underscore his point.

As Florida’s candidate qualifying period opened, Gillum listed a net worth of $334,200 on the disclosure form required for all candidates for state office. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham pegged her net worth at $14.4 million. And former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine estimated his at $133 million.

Candidates have until noon Friday to file disclosures and other paperwork and pay a $7,816.38 filing fee to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene and Winter Park businessman Chris King have yet to file among Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls. If Greene lists a figure in the $3.8 billion neighborhood estimated by Forbes last year, that’s more than 11,000 times Gillum’s net worth.

Neither of the leading Republican candidates for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, has filed yet, either. Putnam listed a $7.8 million net worth four years ago when he ran for a second term as ag commissioner.

Ted Deutch, other Dems call on Putnam to resign over gun check failure

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam campaigning for governor in Riviera Beach last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, called on Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to resign after The Tampa Bay Times reported that Putnam’s office failed to conduct federal background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits for more than a year in 2016 and 2017.

Putnam responded late Friday with a statement suggesting a much smaller-scale problem that his office worked to correct.

“To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application,” Putnam said in a statement released by his office. “Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

The lapse occurred between February 2016 and March 2017 because the employee in charge of background checks could not log into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to a June 2017 Office of Inspector General report that the Times obtained through a public records request.

“The integrity of our department’s licensing program is our highest priority,” Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Aaron Keller told the Times. “As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants’ non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.”

Deutch, whose Palm Beach-Broward district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, reacted angrily on Twitter this afternoon.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign,” Deutch tweeted.

The story prompted Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who launched his Democratic candidacy for governor a week ago, to issue his first statement of the campaign.

“Adam Putnam isn’t just a self-proclaimed ‘proud NRA-sellout,’ he’s a downright danger to Floridians and should drop out of the race for Governor and resign from his position as Commissioner of Agriculture immediately,” Greene said.

The four other Democratic candidates for governor also teed off on Putnam this afternoon.

“Drop out now, Adam,” Democrat Gwen Graham tweeted.

“Adam Putnam should resign,” said Winter Park businessman and Democratic candidate Chris King.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated…An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role,” said former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in a Facebook live post, accused Putnam of “a complete and total dereliction of duty. It put the everyday citizens of this state, their lives, in harm’s way and at risk…This man does not deserve to be the next governor of Florida.”

 

 

Poll: Levine, undecideds top Democratic governor race

How Democratic candidates for governor rank in a new poll by Democratic firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has spent about $10 million on a TV advertising campaign since November, has opened up a big lead in the race for Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor, a new poll says.

But Levine is in a virtual tie with “undecided” in the new poll by Democratic firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design, suggesting there’s plenty of room for other candidates to improve.

Levine gets 32 percent support among likely Democratic voters with 31 percent undecided. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who began her TV campaign Wednesday, gets 16 percent and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum 11 percent in the survey.

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who filed candidate papers last week, gets 4 percent support in the new poll while Winter Park businessman Chris King gets 6 percent.

The poll of 600 voters, conducted Sunday through Thursday, has a 4 percent margin of error. Pollster Tom Eldon said the survey was commissioned by a group of Democrats interested in the race but not tied to any campaign.

“When you have one campaign spending money for a sustained period of time, basically statewide, it doesn’t surprise me” that Levine has taken the lead, Eldon said.

“Undecided is basically tied for first place still,” Eldon said. “There’s a lot of people who haven’t engaged in this race.”

 

Two Democratic gubernatorial debates coming; will Jeff Greene participate?

Florida Democratic candidates for governor, alphabetically from left: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine.

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene filed papers last Friday to run for Florida governor, but he hasn’t made any public statements since and it’s not clear whether he’ll participate a pair of upcoming Democratic debates.

Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine plan to attend a Saturday debate in Pinellas County and a Monday debate in Miramar.

“We wish we knew” whether Greene is participating, said Vickie Dunn, whose Indivisible FL 13 group is organizing Saturday’s forum along with Women’s March Florida and Fired Up Pinellas. “We’ve made all kinds of efforts to contact him. We’ve set up our logistics so we can accommodate and we’re getting nothing back.”

Saturday’s debate runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and can be viewed at http://www.baynews9.com or http://www.mynews13.com.

Monday’s debate is being organized by the Service Employees International Union and other groups. The SEIU’s Eunic Ortiz said Tuesday that organizers had not heard from Greene.

 

Gwen Graham joins the Democratic gubernatorial air war with new TV ad

Former Democratic Florida Gov. Bob Graham makes an appearance in daughter Gwen Graham’s new TV ad as she seeks the governorship.

The first TV ad for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s gubernatorial bid debuts today with a $1 million buy in the Orlando and Tampa TV markets.

The 30-second spot highlights her status as a mom who was active in the PTA and as the daughter of former Florida Democratic Gov. Bob Graham. And while Gwen Graham has at least four rivals for the Democratic nomination, her ad has a general-election feel, urging voters to end two decades of Republican control of the governor’s mansion and Florida Legislature.

“Twenty years with one party running everything with all the wrong priorities,” Graham says in the ad. “The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion, they have hurt education, they have used the lottery to reduce funding — but we’re going to take it back.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads several Democratic polls after spending about $10 million on TV ads since November. Winter Park businessman Chris King began spending more than $1 million on TV ads last month. A PAC supporting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum bought ads last month accusing Graham of not being liberal enough. A fourth Democrat, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, entered the race this week and another Palm Beach County Democrat, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, is expected to announce soon whether he will run for governor.

Levine’s internal poll shows him leading Democratic primary for governor, 33 percent undecided

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Public polls on the Florida Democratic gubernatorial race and internal polls that the campaigns choose to make public seem to agree on two points: Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is ahead — but a large number of Democratic voters haven’t made up their minds as the Aug. 28 primary approaches.

Levine’s campaign released an internal poll today that says Levine leads the Democratic field with 30 percent, followed by former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham at 20 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 12 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 6 percent with 33 percent undecided. PPP conducted the poll of 583 likely Democratic voters last Monday and Tuesday. It has a 4 percent margin of error.

Gillum’s campaign released an internal poll recently that showed Levine at 20 percent and Gillum and Graham tied at 13 percent in an initial ballot test. That poll showed 52 percent of voters were undecided.

Potential candidate Patrick Murphy commissioned a poll that showed Levine at 20 percent and Graham and Murphy tied for second at 14 percent with 41 percent undecided in an initial ballot test.

A Florida Atlantic University poll this month showed Levine holding a within-the-margin-of-error lead over Graham with 42 percent undecided.

Levine has been advertising on TV since November and no other candidate was on the air until King launched a $1 million TV campaign two weeks ago. Gillum and Graham have not gone on TV yet.

Levine’s poll shows him leading Gillum, the only black candidate in the race, by a 27-to-19 percent margin among African-American voters. The poll shows Levine leading Graham, the only woman in the race, by a 30-to-17 percent margin among female voters.