GOP opponent recalls being accused of closet liberalism in primary fight with now-Democratic Florida candidate Jeff Greene

Alex Pappas | Political Reporter

When Jeff Greene was a Republican candidate for Congress in California, he hand-delivered fliers accusing his GOP primary rival of being a closet liberal.

Now Greene, a billionaire who lost the West Coast congressional race in 1982, is a Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida — something his old GOP primary opponent finds humorous considering that Greene attacked him for being a liberal.

“He switched parties,” David Armor said with a laugh at Greene’s entrance into the Florida race. “So maybe he’s a closet conservative.”

Greene jumped into the Florida Senate race the day after then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist announced he would run for the seat without party affiliation. Greene faces Rep. Kendrick Meek in the Democratic primary.

Upon entering the election, the new Dem’s colorful past, including how the self-proclaimed Obama lover once ran as a Republican, was the subject of news stories.

Armor, now 71, is a professor of public policy at George Mason University, and says he remembers little of Greene and the 1982 race they ran against each other. He beat Greene for the GOP nomination but then lost to the Democrat.

One thing he does remember clearly is Greene attacking him for his liberalism dating back to his college years. Armor, before getting a doctorate at Harvard and becoming a self-proclaimed Reagan Republican, had been a student leader at UC Berkeley and had been involved in student demonstrations against the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The day before the California Republican primary, Armor recalled, Greene, the young businessman in his 20s, printed up fliers accusing Armor, in his 40s, of being an closet radical.

“It was pretty hard-hitting,” he recalled. “His campaign manager, as I understand it, didn’t want to help him mail it.”

Armor said Greene and volunteers went door to door putting the fliers in mailboxes.

He said he’s rarely heard or thought of Greene since the election, and didn’t know of Greene’s entrance into the Florida race until a reporter called him. “He seems to have come out of the blue,” Armor said.

Armor says Greene’s Florida campaign seems to parallel his California campaign. In the latter, Greene jumped into the race late and therefore mostly self-funded his campaign. “He did not raise any money, or much money. He spent his own,” he said.

As for the Florida race, Greene has said that he’s willing to spend whatever of it takes of his personal fortune to win the Democratic nomination.

Greene spokesman Paul Blank, reached for comment, said, “Jeff grew up a Democrat, his parents were Democrats, rooted in Democratic principles. He’s been supportive of Democratic causes, supportive of President Obama.”

“For one year of life after Harvard business school, he went a different way.”

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