Surge: Gillum won Palm Beach County after trailing in mail, early votes

Andrew Gillum leaving a rally in Riviera Beach on the Saturday before the Democratic primary. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democrat Andrew Gillum entered primary election day trailing Philip Levine and Gwen Graham in Palm Beach County — but he ended up narrowly winning the county after a strong turnout at the precincts on the traditional election day.

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum shocked pollsters and the punditocracy last week by winning the Democratic nomination with 34.4 percent of the statewide primary vote to 31.3 percent for former U.S. Rep. Graham, who had led in most pre-primary polls.

Gillum carried Palm Beach County — the state’s third-largest jurisdiction — with 29.2 percent of the vote to 28.6 percent for Graham, a difference of 702 votes.

Gillum got only 19 percent of ballots cast by mail in Palm Beach County, finishing fourth in that category behind Levine, Graham and billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene.

In ballots cast at the county’s 15 early voting sites, Gillum finished third with 27.3 percent, trailing Levine and Graham.

But on the traditional election day, Gillum got 35.7 percent of the county vote, far exceeding Graham’s 30.1 percent and Levine’s 23.1 percent.

Greene, who got 10.1 percent statewide, got 13.7 percent in his home county. In Precinct 7154 in Palm Beach, Greene’s home precinct, he finished third with 9 votes, trailing Graham’s 14 and Gillum’s 12.

It’s not immediately clear how early, mail and election-day voting broke statewide for the five-candidate Democratic field.

Palm Beach County voters are more old-school than the rest of Florida. While 57 percent of Democrats statewide cast their ballots by mail or at early-voting sites, only 48 percent of Palm Beach County voters used those forms of voting, with 52 percent waiting until the traditional election day.

Jeff Greene: ‘I don’t think progressives like billionaires’

Jeff Greene talking to reporters after an Aug. 2 debate in Palm Beach Gardens. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene sounded genuinely excited late Tuesday night by rival Andrew Gillum‘s stunning upset victory in the Florida Democratic primary for governor.

Greene, who finished a distant fourth in the gubernatorial primary with 10 percent, said he concluded about a week and a half ago that he wasn’t going to win. But he figured former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham would take the nomination.

“I’m thrilled at the outcome…I’ve always felt that if I couldn’t be the Democratic nominee my second choice would absolutely be Andrew Gillum,” Greene told The Palm Beach Post.

“He absolutely was the best speaker among all of us, me included. And I think Gwen Graham was the worst speaker among all of us. I think she was the worst candidate,” Greene said.

Greene said he and Gillum agreed on most issues.

“I really felt that Andrew and I were the true progressives,” Greene said.

But Greene conceded that his $3.3 billion net worth made him a tough sell to the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.

“Even though I have these beliefs, it’s very hard for someone with my status today as a billionaire to get support from progressives. It was a real challenge…I don’t think progressives like billionaires,” Greene said.

Greene said his campaign never recovered from TV ads run by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine that used a clip of Greene, the day after the 2016 election, calling Donald Trump a “great guy.” Greene said the clip was taken out of context from an interview in which he outlined differences with Trump but said he hoped his presidency would succeed.

“The mistake I made was I probably should have come out the next day talking into the camera and describing what the conversation really was,” Greene said. But, he added, “The way the election turned out, I don’t think it would have mattered.”

On the campaign trail, Greene floated the possibility of spending $200 million on the governor’s race if he were the nominee and helping other Democrats on the ticket. He has made contributions to several candidates, and said he’ll take a look at key races in the coming weeks.

“I’ll continue to support people…if I see where I can make a difference,” Greene said.

Greene ended up spending $34.8 million on his campaign.

“It was a lot of money, even for a rich guy like me,” said Greene. Still he said, “I have a great life and I don’t regret it.”

 

Jeff Greene cancels election-night party but says ground game gives hope

Jeff Greene says he’s down in the polls but not giving up hope in his Democratic primary for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has called off a planned election-night party at his Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa in Palm Beach and acknowledges his polling numbers aren’t good — but he says he remains optimistic that his campaign’s ground game can turn out the voters he needs to win the five-candidate Democratic primary for governor.

“In the polls, I’m definitely down. There’s no question about it,” Greene told PostOnPolitics on Monday as he drove north from a campaign appearance in Miami.

A Gravis Marketing poll released Monday puts Greene second in the five-candidate race, trailing Gwen Graham by 7 points, 26 percent to 19 percent. Other polls show him lower.

Greene called the Gravis poll “encouraging” and said it’s similar to his campaign’s internal polling. He said he hopes his campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts can outperform his polling numbers.

“We have a very big field operation,” said Greene, who said his campaign has identified about 350,000 potential Greene voters and has been following up with them.

“We’re working our voters pretty hard,” Greene said. “The question is, of all the people who say they’re going to vote for you, what percent are going to actually show up?”

As for election night, Greene said calling off the party is not a sign he’s conceding defeat. Greene said he’s simply “more comfortable” watching returns at home with campaign staffers and his wife and young children. The hotel plan was mainly to accommodate the media, he said, but that won’t be a problem.

“If we have a successful night, we’ll talk to all the cameras afterward. If not, we’ll put out a statement,” said Greene.

 

Big Tuesday suspense: Who will win Florida’s pollster primary?

With Florida’s Tuesday primaries approaching and more than 1.5 million votes already cast, four Democrats and two Republicans can point to polls released in the last two weeks that show them leading their primaries for governor or at least within striking distance.

The “pollster primary” is among the topics discussed in the latest edition of the new Inside Florida Politics podcast — click below to check it out.

In the race for the GOP nomination, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis surged to a lead over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in some polls after President Donald Trump gave his “full endorsement” to DeSantis in June and appeared with DeSantis at a Tampa rally in July.

A Gravis Marketing poll released Friday shows DeSantis leading by 15 points. But recent polls by Florida Atlantic University and SurveyUSA say the race is too close to call. A Saint Leo University poll with a sample of only 172 Republicans actually gives Putnam a lead.

In the five-candidate Democratic race, polls by Florida Atlantic University , Saint Leo  and Gravis Marketing give Gwen Graham the lead. SEA Polling gives former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine a within-the-margin-of-error edge, St. Pete Polls shows a within-the-margin-of-error lead for Graham and SurveyUSA has the race tied.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s campaign released an internal poll showing Gillum leading the Democratic field. Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene isn’t leading any polls, but his campaign is arguing he’s a contender by pointing to the Gravis Marketing poll that shows him in second place to Graham, 7 points back. That was close enough for Greene to resume his TV advertising campaign.

He’s back! Jeff Greene re-launches TV ads ahead of Dem primary

Jeff Greene has reconsidered his decision to yank his TV ads.

A day after halting his eight-figure TV advertising campaign, billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has decided to go back on the air ahead of Tuesday’s Florida Democratic primary for governor.

Greene spent more than $20 million on TV through Aug. 10, but spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren announced a change of strategy on Thursday.

“We are really focusing on get-out-the-vote. Jeff feels like we saturated the airwaves when people were paying attention,” VanSusteren said at the time.

VanSusteren today said Greene has decided to go back on the air in South Florida, Orlando and Jacksonville.

After attacking rivals Gwen Graham and Philip Levine in some of his ads, the current Greene spot is positive.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/286361559″>&quot;The Closer&quot;</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/jeffgreeneforflorida”>Jeff Greene</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

“The Democrats for governor…all care about a lot of issues — but it’s all just talk if we don’t win the governor’s race,” says Greene, who says his $3.3 billion net worth to lift Democrats up and down the ticket if he’s the nominee.

“Democrats — just imagine what we can do together,” Greene says at the end of the ad.

The Greene campaign is touting a Gravis Marketing poll that shows Greene in second place with 19 percent behind Graham at 26 percent in the five-candidate field.

The Greene camp’s internal polls are “similar,” VanSusteren said. “They’re really showing that this is anybody’s race…Our internal polling indicates there is a path to victory.”

Jeff Greene stops TV ads, focusing on ground game through Tuesday

Jeff Greene’s TV ads, which often highlighted his pledge to “stand up” against President Donald Trump, have come to a halt.

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has halted his multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign in his Democratic bid for governor, with a spokeswoman saying the airwaves have become “too saturated” before Tuesday’s five-candidate primary.

Listen to EPISODE TWO of the Inside Florida Politics podcast by clicking here.

“We are really focusing on get-out-the-vote. Jeff feels like we saturated the airwaves when people were paying attention,” campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said.

Self-financer Greene had spent more than $20 million on TV ads through Aug. 10, according to campaign finance reports.

About 570,000 Democrats have already cast ballots by mail or at in-person early voting sites ahead of Tuesday’s primary — far exceeding the 495,000 Democrats who voted ahead of the gubernatorial primary in 2014.

VanSusteren said Greene’s campaign, which has field offices in seven cities, is now focused on phone banks and canvassers to turn out voters.

“Jeff Greene is an unconventional candidate,” VanSusteren said. “You don’t become a billionaire by being conventional.”

Who’s behind those flyers with Jeff Greene and black candidates?

Democrat Jeff Greene is pictured with several black elected officials and candidates in flyers distributed by a recently formed group called Florida Defense Fund, which is bankrolled by Greene.

RIVIERA BEACH — Democratic governor candidate Jeff Greene stands out as the lone white face on a “Democratic ticket” with nine black elected officials and candidates on a flyer distributed in this predominantly black city by a recently created political committee called the Florida Defense Fund.

The Florida Defense Fund, it turns out, is bankrolled by Greene, the billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor who has poured more than $30 million into the race since June.

After one of the black officials on the Palm Beach County flyer complained about it, Greene’s campaign on Monday acknowledged being behind the committee. The Florida Defense Fund has also distributed flyers in at least one other area, Miami, showing Greene with a different mix of black officeholders and candidates.

Check out the new Inside Florida Politics podcast from GateHouse Florida by clicking here.

Late Monday night, Greene announced he’s putting $5 million into the Florida Defense Fund to help other Democratic candidates around the state. Greene and the four other Democrats seeking the nomination for governor have similar stances on most issues, but Greene has sought to differentiate himself by pledging to use his wealth to boost a party that has been out of the governor’s mansion and a minority in the state legislature for the past two decades.

The Florida Defense Fund was created July 31 and is chaired by Miami attorney Stuart I. Grossman, whose Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider & Grossman firm was paid $16,097 by Greene’s campaign for legal services on Aug. 9, according to campaign finance reports.

Few people had heard of the Florida Defense Fund until its literature depicting Greene among black candidates began appearing on the windshields of cars parked at black churches on Sunday and at the Wells Recreation Center early voting site in Riviera Beach.

State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, cried foul after seeing his picture on the flyer.

“This is not official at all and it is disrespectful,” Powell wrote on Facebook. “This is going on cars at Black Churches. As a Democrat I can assure you that the party has not endorsed in the primary. Personally, I am supporting Andrew Gillum.”

The Palm Beach County Democratic Party put out a statement clarifying that it “did not endorse or print slate cards for the August 28th Primary.”

A small-print disclaimer on the back of the flyer says it’s “provided for educational purposes and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any candidate or political party.”

Greene campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren defended the flyers Monday.

“These cards were developed by Jeff Greene organizers in local communities and contain no express advocacy, nor suggestion or statement of endorsement,” VanSusteren said.

Referring to Florida Defense Fund as a “PC” or political committee, VanSusteren continued: “Jeff is the only candidate who isn’t beholden to special interest money. He has self-funded his campaign and is the only person who has contributed to his PC (along with his wife, Mei Sze). The PC will continue to disclose all contributions and expenditures to the Division of Elections in a timely manner.”

The back of the flyer lists early voting sites, but overall the literature is of limited use as a voter guide. Two of the candidates pictured — school board member Debra Robinson and candidate Edwin Ferguson — are running against each other. Two others — school board member Marcia Andrews and state Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Delray Beach — are not on the Aug. 28 ballot after winning re-election without opposition in June.

Late Monday, Greene announced his $5 million contribution to the PAC, which he said will target seven key state Senate races.

“This is my vision for Florida: I will help Democrats take back the Senate, make a dent in the House, and defend Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat against Rick Scott,” Greene said in a statement released by his campaign. “Just imagine how effective we can be together.”

 

 

New Democratic poll shows tight race in primary for governor

Five Democrats running for governor, from left: Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is clinging to a within-the-margin-of-error polling lead over former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the five-candidate race for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination, according to Democratic pollster who’s not affiliated with any of the campaigns.

The primary is Aug. 28, but more than 700,000 Floridians — including more than 280,000 Democrats — have already cast ballots through the mail or at in-person early voting sites, which opened Monday in Palm Beach County and several other large counties.

The new survey of 600 Democrats by pollster Tom Eldon of SEA Polling & Strategic Design was conducted Saturday through Tuesday and has a 4 percent margin of error. It shows Levine at 27 percent, Graham at 24 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 15 percent, billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene at 13 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 3 percent. Eighteen percent of Democrats say they’re undecided.

An SEA poll in early June, shortly after Greene entered the race, showed Levine with a 32-to-16 percent lead over Graham with 31 percent of Democrats undecided.

Eldon said the polls are commissioned by a group of Democrats who are interested in the race but aren’t involved with any of the campaigns.

In the new SEA poll, 18 percent of respondents said they had already voted.

 

Jeff Greene says he sold $16.5 million worth of oil and energy stock; rips Gwen Graham

Democratic gubernatorial rivals Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene have been sparring over a planned Miami-Dade megamall and investments. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene says he unloaded $16.5 million worth of oil and energy stock today — a sell-off his campaign says was already in the works when Democratic gubernatorial primary rival Gwen Graham accused him this afternoon of “profiting off Gulf Oil drilling.”

Greene then challenged Graham to put a halt to a massive mall project in Miami-Dade that sits partially on land owned by Graham’s family development company.

Greene and another Democratic candidate, Winter Park businessman Chris King, criticized Graham in a debate last week over the planned 6 million-square-foot American Dream Mall, noting that environmentalists oppose the project because it’s relatively close to the Everglades.  Graham’s campaign says she does not influence the operations of the Graham Companies.

Graham’s candidate financial disclosure lists $13.7 million worth stock in the Graham Companies, which her campaign said is less than 5 percent of the company’s value. Graham stepped down from the company’s board after she was elected to Congress in 2014 and has placed her holdings in the company 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.

The Everglades Trust has criticized the project — but endorsed Graham this week in the five-candidate Democratic primary that includes Graham, Greene, King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Graham’s campaign today slammed Greene for owning stock in Exxon Mobil, Hess and seven other companies with “known oil interests.”

The companies are listed on Greene’s financial disclosure form as sources of “secondary income,” but the specific amount of income derived from them is not listed.

Greene began selling the stock when the market opened this morning and planned to announce it Thursday, campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said, as part of his pledge to divest himself of potential conflicts. Greene pushed up the announcement after Graham went on the attack, VanSusteren said.

VanSusteren said Greene unloaded 75,000 shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. at $80 a share, 150,000 shares of Hess Corp. at $65; 10,000 shares of Kinder Morgan Inc. at $33 and 9,800 shares of Apache Corp. at $46.

Greene no longer owns shares of three of the other companies Graham’s campaign cited, VanSusteren said, but he listed them on his disclosure “in an abundance of caution as he had owned them in the previous calendar year.” For two of the other companies Graham flagged, VanSusteren said Greene “derives no income from these stocks; he has not done so in more than 5 years.” Another company, Quantum Energy, “is a hedge fund with a 10 year term that will self-liquidate by September 2019.”

 

Rival Dems Jeff Greene, Gwen Graham escalate fight over mall project

Democratic gubernatorial rivals Jeff Greene and Gwen Graham have released dueling ads over the Graham family’s ties to a massive mall project in Miami-Dade.

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.”