Jeff Greene, Larry David’s manager a billionaire developer who made lots of money betting against the housing market, has decided to run for Senate in the already-chaotic race in Florida, where Charlie Crist bolted the Republican Party just yesterday to run as an independent. Greene will run in the Democratic primary against Rep. Kendrick Meek, but he has some mavericky-ness in his past:

What is not that well known (at least among those currently chatting about Greene’s Senate bid) is that his previous run at elected office was done as a Republican, not a Democrat. Here’s the relevant graph from that Miami Herald piece:

“After growing up a rock-solid Democrat, the Harvard Business School had made him a middle-of-the-road Republican in the 1980s. He ran in a Congressional primary in the San Fernando Valley and lost.”

First off, anyone running in a Republican primary in the San Fernando Valley expecting to win has his own issues with political reality.

Second, the flirtation with conservatism is perhaps the least objectionable thing about Greene. Having Mike Tyson as the best man at his wedding and living with Heidi Fleiss are actions that can credibly call into question his judgment. And hiring DLCer Doug Schoen, maybe the worst consultant in the Democratic Party, is even worse, and indicates how bad he would be on progressive issues as a Senator.

However, the millions he could throw at a primary would certainly give him an opportunity to win, or at least make Kendrick Meek work, in August. Greene attacked Meek in his introductory campaign video for being a career politician and never working hard in his life. That was probably the wrong tactic against a former state trooper like Meek. I like the feistiness of Meek’s response:

“I’m running for the Senate to stop Wall Street from ever again wrecking the Florida economy. Jeff Greene profited from the misery of millions of Americans who lost their home equity, if not their homes. That’s not the kind of candidate the Democratic party needs, and it’s not the kind of senator Florida needs.

“And I want to remind Mr. Greene that before running for office I worked as a baggage handler and a state trooper. In fact, I was number three in the entire state of Florida for DUI arrests one year. I know it’s not making billions on the backs of the middle class, but saving lives on our highways is a real job.”

Of course, there are mailed press releases and there are the gobs of money Greene can spend to raise his profile. He has a decent shot at winning the primary, I’d say.

UPDATE: As recently as November 2009, Greene donated to Kendrick Meek.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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