Thursday night’s town hall forum in Jacksonville between the Democratic field of gubernatorial candidates lacked fireworks.
The media availability afterwards? A different story, as two top-tier candidates slugged it out.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who was leading in polls up until Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene got in the race, was upbeat when asked the state of the campaign, even as he had a pointed rejoinder for that late-filing opponent.
We asked point blank: would this be a different race if Greene hadn’t gotten in?
“I think that Floridians are getting a good choice with lots of different candidates,” Levine said. “Do they want somebody with no governmental experience to go right to the top job like our President? I don’t think so.”
“When they look at me,” Levine added, “they see somebody who’s not only very successful in business starting from nothing, but this is somebody who’s also been a very successful two-term mayor.”
Levine noted that he “actually fought Donald Trump for a year and a half of his life,” who didn’t “as you can imagine, pass the Grey Poupon at the Kremlin-by-the-Sea, Mar-a-Lago.”
Greene soon enough had comment on Levine’s jibes regarding his relationship with President Trump, as well as context for his description of Trump as a “great guy” after the Republican defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“First of all,” Greene said, “just like President [Barack] Obama and Hillary Clinton when he was elected, I said every American should give our new President a chance, which I did, but it didn’t take me long to see that the kinds of things he’d done, like in Charlottesville and yanking little babies out of their mothers’ arms.”
“I’ve been the strongest opponent of Donald Trump. I’ve been the only one who stood up to him in his own dining room,” Greene said, vowing to “stand up to Donald Trump as Governor of Florida.”
We noted that as a candidate, Trump gave indications that he was not, for Democratic purposes, a “great guy,” and had signalled intentions to govern as he has as soon as he launched his campaign in 2015 with nativist appeals.
“Honestly,” Greene said, “I mean, I think that when I become governor, I hope that Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis will say ‘Jeff’s a great guy, let’s give him a chance’.”
“That’s the American way,” Greene added.