Billionaire Democrat shakes up Democratic senate primary
And you thought Florida's topsy-turvy election year couldn't get crazier. Now comes billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene of Palm Beach, a Democrat, jumping into Florida's already chaotic U.S. Senate race.
“I am an outsider, the only candidate who isn’t a career politician. I’ve succeeded in the real world of hard work – the others have only succeeded at running for political office after office,’’ said Greene, 55, in a video announcing his candidacy.Greene said he he will refuse campaign contributions from special interests, and will limit individual donations to $100. That should be no giant sacrifice considering that Forbes last year estimated his net worth at $1.25-billion.
His colorful profile - Mike Tyson was best man at his 2008 wedding, ex-Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss lived in his guest house after prison, and he made many of his millions betting on the housing collapse that killed Florida's economy - normally would make a candidate like Greene a long shot. But in a race where Democratic frontrunner Kendrick Meek is little known to most voters and Crist non-partisan candidacy means it will be a three-way race, Greene's ability to saturate Florida TV with commercials could make him a major contender.
"There is a big difference between what I did and what Wall Street did. What Wall Street did was wrong – they were motivated by greed and tried to win either way. That’s why I am a strong supporter of President Obama’s efforts to reform our financial regulatory system,'' said Greene, explaining that he invested in complex credit default swaps to protect his real estate investestments when he saw the real estate bubble look shaky. "Never did I imagine that the subprime mortgage market would implode, and I would make hundreds of millions of dollars."
Greene's pitch is similar to another obscure multi-millionaire candidate who recently popped up suddenly in Florida, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. Both are touting their outsider status.
“I’m just as frustrated as you are,’’ Greene says in the video announcing his candidacy. “For too long, the career politicians we’ve sent to Washington have played partisan games and have failed us. All of the major candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat have been inside government for the past 10 years. And during those 10 years, things have only gotten worse.’’
Greene only became a Florida resident in 2008, but he touts his longtime connections to the state. As a college student, he says he bussed tables at The Breakers posh hotel in Palm Beach, and his mother lives in Century Village, a modest retirement complex not far from the 12,000 square foot Palm Beach mansion purchased from Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer last year.