Democratic candidate for governor Jeff Greene fought megaphone duels with a street preacher, a Rastafarian and a Black Lives Matter activist trying to make his message heard in the raucous, muggy protest zone at the Trump rally at the state fairgrounds Tuesday.
But Greene wasn't specific when asked for details on a promise he's made that many Democrats may find enticing: If he's the Democratic nominee for governor, he says, he'll fund Democratic candidates in five Republican-held state Senate races including one in Tampa. Wins in those districts could bring the party close to the Senate majority, or give them a majority if they won all five.
The protest zone crowd, organized largely by Indivisible Action Tampa Bay, NextGen Florida and other progressive groups, reached 300 or more in a circus-like atmosphere, sweaty, muggy, but heavily policed and peaceful.
There were imaginative signs – "It's Mueller Time" — Handmaid's Tale costumes and protesters playing The Beatles' "Back in the USSR" while holding up signs about Trump and Putin.
Speakers with megaphones competed for attention as Trump supporters outside the barricades hurled impromptu chants and insults back at the synchronized chants of the protesters.
When the two sides got close together, some 30 horse- and bike-mounted cops rode slowly between them, backing everyone off, the horses leaving behind their own messy barrier no one was eager to cross.
Greene's 4-year-old, Cameron, enthusiastically tested the sound system: "NO! MOAH! TWUMP!"
Meanwhile, a man who identified himself as "Street Preacher Richard" from Plant City – "Everybody there knows who I am" – megaphoned about the Lamb of God and said He didn't care if you were Republican or Democrat.
The crowd of protesters attracted nearly as big a crowd of Trump backers, who seemed to prefer being there to the actual Trump rally, and invective and insults flew back and forth across the roadway dividing the two sides.
Sometimes there were shouted obscenities but occasionally there were actually conversations, though with no sign of minds changing. Pro-Trump Alex Varidin of Seminole and anti-Trump Kyle Hanson of Zephyrhills talked across the barrier; neither appeared to experience enlightenment, but Varidin offered a beer.
Kim Skidmore and Pam Vazquez, sisters from the Tampa area, wore detailed, authentic-looking, bright red Handmaid's Tale costumes because, Skidmore said, "It feels like we're heading in that direction."
Did they make those costumes themselves? "Amazon.com," she replied.
Greene had ditched planned campaign events in Tampa and St. Petersburg to come instead to the rally, calling it, "An opportunity to get the message out."
"I'm looking forward to running against Ron DeSantis," who is "obviously a surrogate for Trump," he said.
Asked about funding the Senate races, Greene said he plans to self-fund his race, and has told prospective donors, "If I'm the nominee and I'm the head of the ticket … I'm going to ask you to spend twice what you spent last time and give it to these down-ticket races.
"I will definitely do everything I can … whatever's needed."
Pressed on how much he would spend and whether he would set up a PAC or other campaign mechanism, Greene cited Rep. Janet Cruz, who's challenging Republican state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.
"If there's a poll that she's close or a little ahead and needs a push I'll get on the phone and call everybody I know … and I'll get letters out and I'll put some of my own money in," he said.
Greene campaign strategist Eric Foglesong added, "We're not saying we're going to give it House and Senate victory" – the Democratic Party's legislative campaign committees – "but we'll put together a PAC."
Besides Cruz, the other Democratic candidates are Kayser Anneking in District 8, Lindsay Cross in District 24, Bob Doyel in District 22 and Amanda Murphy in District 16. Greene's spokeswoman said Miami incumbent Democratic Rep. Danny Perez would also be on the list.
Greene's stop in Tampa was part of a statewide tour in a campaign bus decorated with "Trump's Worst Nightmare" signs, and he was heading to his Palm Beach home Wednesday for debate preparation and meetings, and then planning to spend the next few days in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, a spokeswoman said.