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In the race for Florida governor, it’s a billionaire and (mostly) millionaires

Five of the seven candidates running in both parties are worth at least seven figures.
Jeff Greene, campaigning for U.S. Senate, in 2010 [LARA CERRI, Times]
Jeff Greene, campaigning for U.S. Senate, in 2010 [LARA CERRI, Times]
Published Jun. 5, 2018

Florida's next governor won't be decided for another six months, but if there's one thing that can be predicted, it's that the next governor is likely to be a millionaire.

Four of the seven candidates running in both parties are millionaires, and the latest entry is a billionaire.

That's not unusual for politics. Gov. Rick Scott, a former health care executive, had a 2016 net worth of $149 million. (Scott's opponent in this year's Senate race, Sen. Bill Nelson, was worth an estimated $3.7 million in 2015.)

The candidates will file detailed financial disclosures before the August primary, but in the meantime, previous records shed some light on their net worths:

Jeff Greene (D) – $3.8 billion net worth (Forbes estimate)

Greene was a successful real estate investor in Los Angeles before deciding to invest in credit-default swaps and betting the housing market would crash (like those guys in The Big Short). When the market did crash, he profited between $500 million and $800 million, turning him into a billionaire virtually overnight. He's since invested hundreds of millions on Palm Beach and West Palm Beach real estate.

Philip Levine (D) – $100 million (published reports)

Various reports put the former Miami Beach mayor's net worth at $100 million, a figure his campaign did not dispute. Levine made his fortune in the cruise ship industry, founding a company in 1990 that made TV ads, an onboard magazine and industry marketing. The company expanded to duty-free shopping, and in 2000 he sold it to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for what he describes as "north of $100 million."

Gwen Graham (D) – $14.9 million (2015 Center for Responsive Politics estimate)

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, is the daughter of former governor and senator Bob Graham. And the family company, The Graham Companies, is the primary source of her wealth, records show. Her grandfather founded the company as a farm in 1932 before the company developed Miami Lakes, a master-planned community in the Miami suburbs. And the company is still active in South Florida real estate. Her stake in the company was worth somewhere between $5 million and $25 million in 2015, according to congressional disclosures.

Adam Putnam (R) – $8.7 million (2016 state disclosure)

The biggest source of wealth for Florida's Agriculture Commissioner comes from … agriculture. Putnam's 20 percent stake in the family business, Putnam Groves, in Polk County, was worth nearly $3 million in 2016. He has another $5 million in various bank accounts and funds.

Chris King (D) – unknown (but in the millions)

King founded Elevation Financial Group in Winter Park at the start of the Great Recession. The company takes aging properties and turns them around, trying to keep housing affordable while generating millions in profit. His campaign couldn't provide his net worth on Monday (a spokesman said King's "success as a progressive entrepreneur is thanks to his belief in living his values every day"). But considering he's loaned his own campaign $825,000 already, it's likely in the millions.

Ron DeSantis (R): -$538,000 in 2016 (2016 Center for Responsive Politics estimate)

The finances for DeSantis, a former Navy Judge Advocate General who worked briefly as a prosecutor before jumping into politics, look more like that of most Americans'. The congressman had mortgages on two homes in Northeast Florida and at least $25,000 in student loan debt in 2016, which drags his net worth into the red.

Andrew Gillum (D) – unknown (but a "non-millionaire")

The Tallahassee mayor doesn't have to disclose his net worth on his county ethics form, and his campaign wasn't able to provide his net worth on Monday. But his campaign has been fond of identifying him as "the only non-millionaire Democrat" in the primary. He was elected to the Tallahassee City Commission right out of college and has been in elected office ever since.

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