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.

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“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.”

Florida early, mail voting tops 2014 primary levels; Republicans more engaged

The forest of candidate signs outside the Palm Beach County Elections Office means it’s early voting season. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

More Florida voters have cast mail-in ballots or gone to in-person early voting sites for the Aug. 28 primaries than did so for the 2014 primaries, the latest Florida Division of Elections statistics show.

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Reports posted this morning show 1,247,345 Floridians have already voted — topping the 1,214,193 who cast ballots ahead of the last midterm primaries in August 2014. And there’s still ample opportunity to vote before the traditional election day next Tuesday. In-person early voting ends on Sunday. Elections officials can receive mailed-in ballots through Tuesday.

Republican voters have been more enthusiastic than Democrats so far. There have been 583,960 ballots cast by Republicans, or 46.8 percent of all pre-election ballots, and 519,691 ballots cast by Democrats, or 41.8 percent of votes so far.

The Republican turnout advantage includes both mail-in ballots (450,402 to 389,046) and in-person early voting (133,558 to 130,645).


Putnam comes to Palm Beach County amid signs of tightening GOP primary race with DeSantis

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

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — given up for dead by some Republicans after primary foe Ron DeSantis snagged the endorsement of President Donald Trump — will make a Palm Beach County appearance this evening amid some recent polling numbers that suggest the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination is tightening.

Putnam and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera are scheduled to appear at a 6 p.m. rally at Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

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A Florida Atlantic University poll released Tuesday shows Putnam and DeSantis in a virtual tie among Republican primary voters — 32 percent for DeSantis and 31 percent for Putnam in a survey with a 6.5 percent margin of error.

A SurveyUSA poll last week found similar results, with DeSantis holding a 40-to-38 percent lead in a sampling that had a 5.2 percent margin of error.

When Putnam campaigned in Bradenton on Tuesday, Sarasota Herald-Tribune Politics Editor Zac Anderson reports he blasted DeSantis for his ties to the president.

“You can’t afford to have a governor who calls the White House every morning and says ‘What are we going to do today boss?’” Putnam said during a breakfast event at Theresa’s Restaurant. “No, if you want to help our president make America great the third-largest state has to be hitting on all cylinders.”

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.

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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.”



Voter turnout has already topped 1 million for Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries

A line outside an early voting site in 2016. For this year’s Aug. 28 primaries, more than 162,000 Floridians have cast ballots at early voting sites and more than 861,000 have voted by mail. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Sometime over the weekend, the number of Florida voters who have cast ballots for the Aug. 28 primaries passed the 1 million mark.

Statistics released by the Florida Division of Elections this morning show 862,452 voters have mailed in ballots and 162,631 have voted at in-person early voting sites.

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This year’s early and mail-in turnout will likely exceed the advance voting turnout for the August primaries in 2014, the last midterm election year. Four years ago, 1.2 million voters cast ballots before the primary election day and about 900,000 people voted on the traditional election day.

In 2016, the August primaries drew 1.8 million early and mail-in voters and about 1.1 million voters on the traditional election day.

Among those who have voted so far this year, 46.5 percent are Republicans and 41.3 percent are Democrats.

Republicans have turned in 402,881 vote-by-mail ballots, compared to 344,753 Democratic mail-in ballots.

Early voting, which began last Monday in Palm Beach County and some other counties but didn’t go statewide until Saturday, has drawn 78,656 Democrats and 73,092 Republicans.

In Palm Beach County, 37,857 voters have cast mail-in ballots and 15,485 have voted early.

More than 800,000 have already voted in Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries

Voters line up at the Hagen Ranch Road Library west of Delray Beach — the most popular early voting site in Palm Beach County. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Turnout for Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries has already topped 800,000 — and that’s before in-person early voting has opened in more 45 of Florida’s 67 counties.

This morning’s update from the Florida Division of Elections shows 785,400 people have voted by mail and 49,246 have cast ballots at in-person early voting sites in 22 counties.

Of the ballots cast so far, 46.5 percent are from Republicans and 40.4 percent from Democrats.

In Palm Beach County, more than 45,000 people have already voted. That includes 35,458 mail-in ballots and 9,958 ballots cast at early voting sites.

Palm Beach County has 15 early voting sites, which opened Monday. The Hagen Ranch Road Library west of Delray Beach has been the most popular, drawing 1,714 voters. The Belle Glade Branch Library seen the least traffic, with only 152 voters showing up in the first four days.

Early voting will be available in all 67 counties beginning Saturday.

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.


Feel the Bern: Sanders to campaign with Andrew Gillum in Tampa, Orlando

Andrew Gillum hopes to tap into some of the Berniemania that was on display in Miami last year when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made an appearance. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders got shellacked by Hillary Clinton in Florida’s 2016 presidential primary. But the 33.3 percent of the vote Sanders got in that race might be enough to win this year’s five-candidate Florida Democratic primary for governor.

Andrew Gillum in Palm Beach Gardens after a Democratic debate. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who’s hoping to tap into the Sanders base of liberal voters in the primary, will campaign with Sanders on Friday in Tampa and Orlando.

Sanders endorsed Gillum Aug. 1, joining a cast of out-of-state stars of the left that includes George Soros, Tom Steyer, Norman Lear and Jane Fonda in supporting Gillum’s candidacy.

Sanders and Gillum are scheduled to appear at an 11 a.m. Friday rally at the hipsterish Armature Works in Tampa, then attend a 3 p.m. rally at the CFE Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando.


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.


Increasing share of Florida voters bypassing Democrats, Republicans

An increasing share of Florida voters are registering with neither major party. (File photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

The number of voters registered with minor parties or with no party affiliation in Florida has increased 4.2 percent since the 2016 presidential election while Democratic registrations are down slightly and Republican registrations have increased slightly, according to new statistics from the Florida Division of Elections.

There were 12.8 million voters registered to vote in Florida for the 2016 general election. There are just over 13 million registered for Florida’s Aug. 28 primary elections — an increase of 1.2 percent. The new figures were released after registration closed on July 30 for the Aug. 28 elections.

The overall gain of 149,884 voters in Florida includes an increase of 144,377 voters registering with no party affiliation or with minor parties. There were 3.44 million of those voters in 2016 and there are 3.58 million of them now.

The number of Democratic voters has decreased by 38,315 or 0.8 percent since 2016 — from 4.88 million to 4.84 million.

The number of Republican voters has increased by 43,822 or nearly 1 percent since 2016 — from 4.55 million to 4.59 million.

As a share of overall voters in Florida, Democrats have dropped from 37.9 percent in 2016 to 37.2 percent now. Republicans have decreased from 35.4 percent to 35.3 percent. No-party and minor-party voters have increased from 26.7 percent in 2016 to 27.5 percent now.