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Jeff Greene says he'll play king-maker if he wins Democratic nomination for governor

Jeff Greene

Jeff Greene says everybody wants to know the same thing now that he's officially running for Florida governor: How much of his own money will the billionaire spend on his campaign?

A more interesting question might ask how much he's willing to spend to get other Democrats elected.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Greene said he'd seek to play kingmaker in state legislative races this summer by dumping cash into competitive state House and Senate races if he wins the Democratic nomination. A real estate tycoon with a net worth estimated at around $4 billion, Greene has the kind of cash to make him a counterbalance to, say, Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas gaming magnate who has dumped at least $10 million into conservative Florida campaigns since 2010 — the last time Greene ran for statewide office.

"Everyone asks me for numbers. The reality is whatever it takes," said Greene, who invested $24 million into his failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. "We’re not going to just throw money around. We'll spend as little as we have to but as much as we need to.

Greene, who tossed out the number $200 million when talking Tuesday to the Associated Press, has continued to contribute to other Democrats over the past eight years. He gave $4,600 in 2014, for instance, to the congressional campaign of Gwen Graham, whom he's now running against. But, perhaps with the number 200 on his mind Tuesday, he mentioned $200,000 when speaking hypothetically about his ability to influence competitive general election races through political committee donations heading into November were he to be the Democratic nominee.

"When I win the nomination I’ll be getting involved in other races. I hope the Republicans read this and understand the days of easy rides to controlling the House and Senate are over for good," said Greene, whose enthusiasm waned when asked if he'd do the same should he lose. "I’ll be doing whatever it takes to go toe to toe dollar-wise to get the message out in the general election."

Political strategists and his opponents were skeptical of Greene's chances to win the Democratic nomination when he quietly filed to run this month (without officially announcing his campaign or talking to the press for days). But Greene's money makes him a threat, since the question isn't whether he can dump millions into TV ads but how much he's willing to spend.

"All bets are off if he spends $50 million, and unlike his last attempt spends it in away that compels voters to support him," Democratic consultant Steven Vancore said as news spread that Greene had filed to run.

Greene spoke to the Miami Herald late Tuesday night after a day of interviews, his first since filing paperwork June 1 to seek the Democratic nomination against Andrew Gillum, Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. Green said he'd stayed quiet because he needed to get his campaign team set up first.

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