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Jeff Greene talks Democratic primary from Leadership Blue conference

Jeff Greene is the newest Democrat to enter the Florida governor’s race. And as he tries to play catch-up, the billionaire is sharing his thoughts on the primary race, including some tough talk about his opponents.

Greene was one of several Democratic candidates for Governor to appear at this weekend’s Leadership Blue conference at The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

During an interview with Florida Politics, Greene responded to criticism by Andrew Gillum and some Democratic activists, who are skeptical of a billionaire jumping into the race for governor.

But to hear Greene tell it, his wealth isn’t a burden for Democratic voters, but rather a plus.

“I don’t owe a penny to anybody. The only special interest group I owe anything to is the people of Florida.”

In fact, Greene turned the attacks back toward Gillum, who has received support from billionaires George Soros and, more recently, Tom Steyer.

“I know Tom Steyer. I know George Soros. They don’t just give people money because they feel like, ‘Oh he’s a great guy, here’s the money. Do whatever you want.’ You are going to be their agent.”

He continued the critique, saying, “If you want to have Florida be managed by George Soros and whatever he wants, regardless of whether the governor likes it, and Tom Steyer, then you can go with Andrew Gillum.”

On the issues, Greene was clearly most focused on education, coming back to the need for reform.

In terms of what he would do for Florida, Greene pointed to New Jersey, which improved its middling education numbers and now is now second in the country, according to one rankings system.

“Two years of high-quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in the state. It’s not that expensive.” He pitched the elimination of vouchers to private schools as a way to pay for the program.

Greene also said he would push to equalize the way education money was spent throughout the state.

“Unfortunately your zip code, where you’re born, will determine in a lot of ways where your life goes.”

And when speaking about other issues, Greene often found a way to tie them back to improving the state’s school system. “A lot of the problems that we have are direct derivatives of our failures in education.”

He argued better schools would help wages, attract innovative companies to the state, and reduce the amount of people resorting to crime and getting caught up in the criminal justice system.

Greene did highlight ways he would push for criminal justice reform, including the elimination of mandatory minimums and private prisons.

But the reality is, Greene still trails Philip Levine and Gwen Graham in the polls. Asked how he would come out on top, Greene remarked, “undecideds are leading the polls. So we’re going to get those undecided voters.”

And once again, he used that fact to take aim at his opponents.

“No one knows who Philip Levine and Gwen Graham are. And those that do have not been inspired by them.”

Voters will have their say on that during the August 28 primary.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to

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