Positioning himself as the outsider against three career politicians for the U.S. Senate, Democratic real estate investor Jeff Greene took a shot at an elder statesman in his own party during a visit Wednesday to a politically active Broward retirement community.
In one of his first public appearances since he joined the race last month, Greene criticized U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for traveling last month to Cape Canaveral with President Barack Obama, who has proposed scaling back the space shuttle program that employs thousands of people.
Nelson -- who has served in public office since 1972 and flew on a space shuttle in 1986 -- has urged Obama to preserve NASA funding.
"I was kind of disappointed when I saw Sen. Nelson flying down with President Obama to terminate those jobs," Greene told about 100 members of the Kings Point Democratic Club in Tamarac. "I would rather see the space program stay here because the space program has spawned lots and lots of high-paying, great jobs in that area."
Nelson's office did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
In a political climate where incumbents appear headed toward the endangered species list, Greene's jabs at Nelson -- and at U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the likely Democratic nominee -- didn't seem to offend the crowd.
Polls show the Miami congressman lagging behind Republican Marco Rubio and the newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat.
"Meek is going nowhere and we need someone who is going somewhere," said Kings Point President Len Ronik. "If I had Greene's money, I could be a U.S. senator."
Greene has told some Democrats he will spend $40 million before the Aug. 24 primary. He launched a statewide TV ad campaign this week estimated at $1.3 million so far.
"The career politicians have had their chance. I have a real plan to bring back and create jobs in Florida, jump-start the housing market and revitalize our economy," Greene says in one of two TV ads.
Just as polls show that Republican gubernatorial front-runner Bill McCollum has lost more than 20 points amid an avalanche of ads by little-known businessman Rick Scott of Naples, Meek faces a serious threat from Greene. McCollum and Meek each have less than $4 million available to spend against their deep-pocketed rivals.
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