Billionaire Democrat Jeff Greene Joins Florida Senate Race

Updated at 2:15 p.m ET

Billionaire real estate executive Jeff Greene shook up an already turbulent Florida Senate race Friday when he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

The announcement comes just one day after Gov. Charlie Crist declared that he would run as an independent, effectively handing the Republican nomination to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. Greene joins a crowded field that includes Crist, Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, who was previously considered the unchallenged front-runner in the Democratic primary.

A video released by Greene this morning brands his candidacy as a "different choice." The billionaire is brandishing his credentials as an outsider candidate who is "fed up" with politics as usual in Florida.

(Watch Video Above)

"They want to give you the false choice between two life-long Republicans and a life-long Democrat. I want to give you a different choice, between three career politicians on one side and an outsider who is willing to shake things up in Washington on the other," declared Greene in his announcement.

Greene promises that his massive wealth will insulate him from the influence of special interests. He has vowed not take a contribution over $100 from anybody.

Interestingly he predicted that his political opponents would attack him for his "success in making money," or for his past when he was single.

Presumably, he is referring to the fact he has reportedly made most of his fortune by betting against subprime loans. Or that Mike Tyson was his best man and former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss once stayed at his Los Angeles home.

In other news relating to the Senate race, Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio both appeared in separate interview segments on NBC's "Today" show this morning.

Crist denied that political expediency or lagging poll numbers played any role in his decision to leave the Republican primary, repeatedly re-iterating that his choice reflected a desire to "let all the people make this decision."

Rubio fired back with claims that Crist only abandoned the Republican party after the $1 million he spent on attack ads proved fruitless.

But Rubio also said it is Crist's "right" to run as an independent.

"What I'm looking forward to now over the next six months is an issue and idea-based campaign and at the end of that voters will have choices, there's no doubt about it. I'm looking forward to that," he said.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. George LeMieux said today that he is "saddened" by Crist's decision to leave the GOP and will not be supporting the governor despite their close friendship, according to the St. Petersburg Times. LeMieux, who was appointed by Crist and might have have designs on challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, would risk alienating Washington Republicans by standing behind Crist.

"I will support our Republican nominee and will continue to do everything I can both in Florida and across the country to increase the number of Republicans in the United States Senate," LeMieux said.

More Coverage of the Florida Senate Race from CBSNews.com:

Crist's Defection Could Be Gift To Democrats
Eight Questions to Ask About Charlie Crist's Independent Senate Bid
Charlie Crist: How Would He Do as an Independent?
Gov. Crist Bolts from GOP

  • Tyler Finn

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