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.”

 

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.”

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.

 

In West Delray, Philip Levine rips Donald Trump and ‘his little Mini-Me, Ron DeSantis’

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, one of five Democrats running for governor, visits an early voting site in West Delray today. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Philip Levine stopped by an early voting site west of Delray Beach this morning and told supporters that Florida is “the last line of defense for Democrats against Donald Trump and against his little Mini-Me, Ron DeSantis.”

The former Miami Beach mayor visited the Hagen Ranch Road Library as part of a statewide swing that was to include stops at early voting sights in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.

With turnout usually low for the August primaries and five Democrats vying for the gubernatorial nomination, Levine played the Trump card to try to energize voters. His attack on DeSantis reflects the widespread expectation among Democrats that the Trump-endorsed Republican will win the GOP nomination over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“This is how we’re going to change the state. This is how we’re going to change the country,” Levine said to about 20 supporters. “And what you guys are doing here today, you’re at the front lines. Because this is the last line of defense for Democrats against Donald Trump and against his little Mini-Me, Ron DeSantis. So this is it. You being out here is so important for everything we need to get done – stop offshore oil drilling, make sure we have health care for everybody, raise the minimum living wage, pay our teachers a fair, nationally competitive salary…”

While Trump’s support of DeSantis has reshaped the GOP primary, Levine said Trump will also be a significant factor in the Democratic primary.

“It’s a huge issue because for people that want to fight climate change, for people that want health care for everybody, for people that want to pay their teachers more, for people that want safe gun laws in the state of Florida, they realize that Donald Trump and his little Mini-Me, Radical Ron, they are against all those things for the state of Florida,” Levine said in an interview.

“Which means that the Democratic nominee is going to be fighting against the white House. And the key is, who is best equipped, who has the most experience to fight back against Donald Trump. And I believe I am that person,” Levine said.

 

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.”

 

Raise taxes? What five Democrats running for Florida governor said in debate

Five Democrats running for Florida governor prepare for a Thursday night debate at WPBF Channel 25 in Palm Beach Gardens. From left: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene, Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The five Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for governor favor more spending on education and other programs. Does that mean they’ll support tax increases to pay for them?

Here’s what they said Thursday night during a debate in Palm Beach Gardens that aired on WPBF Channel 25 and other stations across the state:

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum: “I will not raise taxes on everyday Floridians…Regular, everyday people are paying their fair share. Corporations, however, the largest most wealthiest corporations in this state, only 3 percent of companies, pay the corporate income tax in this state. And in Florida the corporate income tax is less than that of Georgia and Alabama. Florida cannot be a cheap date and still be the state that is deserving of our children. I believe that corporations have to pay their fair share.”

(Florida’s 5.5 percent corporate income tax is expected to raise about $2.2 billion this year; the state’s general sales tax, by comparison, is expected to raise about $25 billion.)

• Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene:  “We don’t have to raise taxes in Florida. It’s just a question of priorities…It’s very easy. We just change our priorities and start spending more money on the things that are important to us and we’ll get everything done. Get rid of the corporate welfare checks that Rick Scott‘s been giving out.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham: “On Nov. 7, I’m going to pull together a team of the smartest and best people to evaluate and do a full audit of our budget. Where are we spending our money? Is it justified? Are we spending it in the best interest of Floridians? We’re going to find out if there’s a lot of resources that the state of Florida is using that are not helping Floridians. My commitment is to redirect those resources and I will be working hard every day to make sure we have a positive impact on your life.”

Winter Park businessman Chris King: “I am going to demonstrate the integrity that we can pay for the big ideas from the revenues of Florida without adding to our tax burden.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine: “I am not a tax-and-spend Democrat. I am an invest-and-build Democrat and I believe in investing in Floridians. Under no circumstances would I raise taxes in Florida. With an $89 billion budget in Florida and so many opportunities to derive revenue and make corporations actually pay the 5-1/2 percent tax, we do not need to raise taxes in Florida. As a matter of fact, Florida being a low-tax state is one of our great competitive advantages — and advantage that I, under no circumstances would I like to see go away.”

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.