The sudden return of Billionaire developer Jeff Greene- yeah that Jeff Greene to a statewide Democratic primary sent shock waves through political circles in Florida on Monday. Greene’s decision to run for Governor, much like his ill-fated decision to run for US Senate in 2018 cannot be viewed in a vacuum. It is potentially part of a larger plan to destabilize the Democratic Party and either elect Republicans in 2018 or perhaps the “right” Democrat.
Greene, who is based in Palm Beach County can self-fund and might very well have the aid and cooperation of many in then local political establishment. While Greene’s intentions aren’t apparent on the surface, more might be at play than just his desire to be Governor of Florida.
Rewind back to 2010, when Greene opted to run for US Senate. Congressman Kendrick Meek, an African-American and the presumptive Democratic nominee was seen as too liberal and perhaps the wrong color for many in the Democratic establishment. Those establishment figures coaxed Charlie Crist, then the GOP Governor of the state, to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent. To weaken Meek, many of the same leaders which included elected officials and self-described “activists” from south Florida (none of whom were African-American) backed Greene and made outlandish statements about how he would personally fund the Democratic Party’s GOTV efforts if he were nominated.
A racially-charged whisper campaign ensued. While Greene and his campaign staff weren’t responsible for this, many of those who pushed Greene into the race, particularly from Palm Beach County participated. While Greene got crushed in the primary, the damage was done to Meek who was deemed unelectable by the masses. Crist became the defacto Democratic nominee and predictably Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, one of the most conservative officeholders in the recent history of the state walked into the US Senate.
Now fast forward to 2018. Greene once again has jumped into a Democratic Primary late. This time he’s adding another Jewish South Florida male to a race currently led by former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine. While Levine is an establishment Democrat, a whisper campaign about his electibility outside southeastern Florida has been widespread for months. Concerns are also abound among the same crowd regarding the potential nomination of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a progressive who is African-American. The choice of those who are spreading electibility theories is almost universally former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who as a member of the US House voted against President Obama’s position on priority items about half the time during her tenure.
Perhaps some party leaders are convinced Graham is the only person who can win the Governorship who is currently running as a Democrat. Or perhaps her nomination is a way of controlling the party and its patronage going forward? It’s hard to know the actual motivation for some party elders if Greene’s candidacy is in fact a back door way to help Graham win the nomination.
It’s also worth noting two other potential factors. The possible bi-partisan fusion ticket of former Congressman David Jolly and Pat Murphy as well as the long-standing relationship many in Palm Beach County especially those tied to sugar and agriculture have with GOP front-runner Adam Putnam.
While it is perfectly possible Greene is running on his own and wants to be Governor, given the experience of 2010 it’s important to ask the questions and think critically about his entry as I have above. I’d encourage all Democrats around the state to do the same and come to your own conclusions.