With rival Philip Levine still trying to hang President Donald Trump around his neck, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene lashed back again Thursday morning, insisting that he detests his Palm Beach neighbor, and vice versa.
“Donald Trump can’t stand me,” Greene said. “I know him. I don’t have much of a relationship with him. I haven’t had lunch or dinner with him. But I’ve met him many, many times. He knows if I’m governor of Florida I’m not going to be his friend.”
The issue of Greene’s attitude toward Trump has been a major undercurrent in Greene’s campaign since even before he entered the race in mid June, with him frequently having to defend his statement on FOX Business News, shortly after the 2016 election, calling Trump “a great guy” and offering support.
Some of the other Democrats running, Chris King, Gwen Graham, and Andrew Gillum, also have at least raised eyebrows about the comment in debates and campaign statements.
It continues to haunt, coming up as a hot topic from a professed undecided voter who challenged Greene over it Thursday during a stop in Central Florida.
Trump’s power in the primary has been well documented as his endorsement of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis helped rocket him toward the top heading into the Aug. 28 primaries, and Democrats are battling over the negative power Trump has with Democrats.
Greene has launched multiple TV ads, mailers, and public statements trying to counter that with his declarations that as governor he would be Trump’s worst nightmare; then to counter Levine’s TV ads reminding everyone of Greene’s statements; then to punch back, charging that Levine, too, had made at least conciliatory if not praising comments about Trump, even though Levine was a front-line campaign surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton in that race.
“Obviously, if you Google you’ll see all the [anti-Trump] stuff I did during the  campaign,” Greene insisted.
Yet the issue still is resonating with Democratic voters, to the point that it might take a hostile Trump tweet to fully clear Greene.
It came up Thursday when Greene was speaking to a gathering at the Roth Jewish Family Center in Maitland, in an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, from an audience member who’d seen Levine’s ad, and was concerned.
Greene brushed off the initial comment, again, as something respectful that someone should say whenever a new president takes office.
“Unfortunately that quote is being thrown all over the place,” Greene said. “It’s par for the course.”