ORLANDO, Fla. – Jeff Greene, the 63-year-old Florida real estate billionaire running for governor, said he expects to use his financial leverage to out-campaign his four rivals and put a Democratic governor in Tallahassee for the first time in two decades.
“We’ve had 20 years of Republican governors; they’ve destroyed our state,” Greene told News 6. “Any one of my opponents will be better than Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.”
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Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham; former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a wealthy businessman in his own right; along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King; round out a crowded field of candidates vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.
Recent polls put Levin in the lead, but there are still a sizeable number of undecided voters — votes Greene is counting on to win the Aug. 28 primary.
[READ: See who’s running in Florida’s critical 2018 election season]
“There’s a lot of things that need big improvement here and I want to be governor to make those improvements," he said. “…the purpose of having wealth, in my view, (is) to make a big difference in people’s lives.”
GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who served two terms as Florida’s chief executive, is running for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
Scott will leave the state with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate, but Greene says the numbers are misleading at best.
[RELATED: Who’s running for Florida governor in 2018?]
“Forty-four percent of Floridians can’t put $400 together for an emergency," he said. “He ( Gov. Scott) has created a lot of low-paying jobs. Where are the good jobs? I’d like to know: Where are all these great companies?”
Greene said he is convinced the good jobs that come with major companies are missing because Florida’s education system is weak.
He cited a recent U.S. News and World Report analysis that ranked the state’s education system at 40 and health care at 47.
“Fifty-six percent of kids are at a third-grade reading level. It just keeps getting worse because if you are not reading, you’re not learning,” Greene said.
[READ: Sparks fly as Putnam, DeSantis debate for governor]
Greene said he wants to review the state budget and make changes in education spending.
“The first thing we’re going to do is look at the budget and figure out how we’re going to immediately fund two years of pre-k education for every child in Florida,” Greene said.
On the issue of increased security of Florida schools, Greene dismissed the notion that teachers should carry weapons on school grounds as a security policy.
“I think arming teachers is ridiculous," he said. “As it turns out, our teachers are underpaid and underfunded.”
Greene just joined the race a few weeks ago and missed several key Democratic debates.
He said he will be there for the debate set for Aug. 2 at the University of Miami and fully expects to win the party’s nomination.
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