Democrats backing Gwen Graham’s candidacy for governor are blasting Jeff Greene for a new television campaign ad that the Palm Beach billionaire began airing on Friday. The ad alludes to her family’s participation in developing what is planned to be the largest mall in the U.S., near the Everglades.
The proposed American Dream Miami megamall is being built by Canadian developer Triple Five on undeveloped land off the Florida Turnpike in northwest Miami-Dade County. The Graham family company a owns a major of the 175 acres where the mall will be built, according to the Miami Herald. The Graham Company plans a commercial and residential project on 300 nearby acres.
While the development has been contentious in South Florida, it only recently became a major campaign problem for Graham, who has portrayed herself as strong environmentalist as she attempts to win the nomination later this month.
The ad features segments of an interview where Graham was asked on CBS Miami last month about the megamall by reporter Jim DeFede. And it features a quote from the Sierra Club declaring that, “This catastrophic proposal must be stopped.”
The Graham campaign has come out swinging against the ad, releasing a statement with denunciations from several Democrats, such as former legislator and party chairman Rod Smith.
“Jeff Greene knows full well the Grahams aren’t building a mall. Greene’s entire attack ad is based on a lie and altered news footage,” Smith said, adding that such attacks only hurt the Democrats’ chances of winning the governor’s seat in the fall.
Jeff Greene is a billionaire developer who illegally refused to disclose how much interest he holds in oil companies who want to drill off our beaches and frackers who want to destroy our aquifer,” added Orlando state Senator Linda Stewart, another Graham supporter.
In a statement, the Graham campaign again reiterated Gwen’s independence from the controversial project, saying that after she was elected to Congress in 2014 she stepped down from the Graham Company’s board and placed the company’s holdings into a transparent trust.
Graham has also said that if any questions about the megamall were to hit her desk as governor she would recuse herself and ask the remaining three members of the Cabinet to decide.
At Thursday’s debate in West Palm Beach, another candidate in the Democratic race, Winter Park businessman Chris King, also attacked Graham about her family’s involvement with the project.
“I’m so proud of my family’s public service here in the state of Florida,” Graham responded. “I have removed myself from my family company and taken the steps to put everything in a family trust.”
According to recent polls, Graham is the clear front-runner in the race, but Greene’s extravagant spending on television and direct mail ads has catapulted him into contention for the nomination.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine round out the field.