RE donors emerge for Florida governor candidates as Election Day nears

Russell Galbut, Charles Abele and Toll Brothers co-founder Bruce Toll among donors

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis, Bruce Toll, Russell Galbut and Louis Wolfson
Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis, Bruce Toll, Russell Galbut and Louis Wolfson

UPDATED, Nov. 1, 3:45 p.m.: Crescent Heights developer Russell Galbut, Access Industries billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, Miami Worldcenter developer Art Falcone and Pinnacle Housing Group partners Louis Wolfson and Mitchell Friedman are among a growing list of real estate heavyweights giving to Florida gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum.

The race, one of the most-watched across the country, comes to a head on Tuesday. Both candidates have outlined their plans for the environment, with both supporting restoration of the Everglades and proposing bans on fracking and offshore drilling. Affordable housing developers like Wolfson, Friedman and Randy Rieger have given to Gillum, a Democrat. DeSantis, a Republican, has scored donations from Toll Brothers co-founder Bruce Toll and Lennar division president Brock Nicholas.

The Real Deal dug into the federal and state campaign finance databases to learn who South Florida’s most prominent figures in real estate are supporting, considering only contributions of $1,000 or more as of mid-October from figures known in the local industry.

TRD’s list of donors and donations is not comprehensive and includes donations to political action committees and political party committees, which explains why some totals exceed the limits that individuals can contribute. Individuals are maxed out at $2,700 per election to a federal candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee. But they can also give up to $5,000 to a political action committee. In Florida, individuals are capped at $3,000 to a candidate for statewide office, according to the Division of Elections.


Andrew Gillum


Running mate: Developer Chris King

Lives in: Tallahassee

Net worth: $334,000

Campaign war chest: $16.9 million

Biggest Real Estate Donors:

— Jeff Greene, developer, $105,000 to Forward Florida, Gillum’s PAC

Balough Family Partnership/Investments and Robert Balough, $9,000

— Don Peebles, founder, chairman and CEO of Peebles Corp., $5,000 to Forward Florida

— Randy Rieger, founder and chairman of Housing Trust Group, $3,000

— Francis Greenburger, chairman and CEO of Time Equities Inc., $3,000

— Rod Adkins, president of 3RAM Group, $3,000

— Ziyad ‘Zach’ Mneimneh, principal of Polaris Development, $3,000

— Louis Wolfson, partner at Pinnacle Housing Group, $3,000

— Mitchell Friedman, partner at Pinnacle Housing Group, $3,000

— Peter Leach, senior vice president at Southport Financial Services, $3,000

— Brianne Heffner, vice president of development at Southport Financial Services, $3,000

— JoAnn Tredennick, treasurer of Groundwork Jacksonville, $2,700

— Frank Biden, developer and brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, $2,500

— George Billingsley, partner at Billingsley Company, $1,000

— Charles Abele, chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Florida Regional Center, $1,000

— Dan Abrams, founder and president of Wynkoop Properties, $1,000

— Noel Khalil, co-founder and partner of Columbia Ventures, $1,000

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail:

Gillum has spoken in favor of the state fully funding affordable housing, especially for seniors. Gillum’s running mate could make affordable housing a priority for the administration if elected, said Democrat Javier Fernandez, a state representative.

King, who ran in the primary against Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and Jeff Greene, is CEO of Elevation Financial Group, a Winter Park-based company that builds affordable housing.

Gillum supports a “clean energy” plan for Florida. His campaign cites Tallahassee reducing its electricity footprint by 20 percent under his leadership. Gillum said he’s worked to create and improve programs like free residential and commercial energy audits and low-interest energy loans.

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Achilles’ heel: An FBI investigation into possible corruption at Tallahassee City Hall could be problematic. The FBI has declined to comment on the probe, but Gillum insists he’s not a target of the investigation, which dates back to 2015. Gillum met with someone he thought was a developer from Atlanta, who was in fact an undercover FBI agent, according to news reports. The Community Redevelopment Agency later voted to expand a redevelopment district to include land that the so-called developer was looking to build on, which could be seen as unethical. Gillum, who’s on the CRA board along with city commissioners, wasn’t present for that vote.

Ron DeSantis


Running mate: State Rep. Jeanette Nunez

Lives in: Tampa

Net worth: $311,000

Campaign war chest: $14.6 million

Biggest Real Estate Donors:

— Leonard Blavatnik, founder of Access Industries, $3,000

— Art Falcone, chairman and CEO of Falcone Group, $3,000

— Lawrence Moens, owner of Lawrence A. Moens Associates, $3,000

— Bruce Toll, co-founder of Toll Brothers, $3,000

— Michael Schrimsher, general partner at Schrimsher Properties, $3,000

— MG3 Developer, $3,000

— John Rood, chairman of the Vestcor Companies, $3,000

— Jacksonville homebuilder Browdy & Browdy Inc., $3,000

— Howie Rich, Philadelphia-based real estate investor, $3,000

— Curtis Schade, partner at Ziff Properties, $3,000

— Oliver Grace Jr., president and CEO of Anderson Group, $3,000

— George Banks, co-founder and principal of Priderock Capital Partners, $3,000

— Larry A. Mizel, chairman and CEO of MDC Holdings, $3,000

— Ron Howse, president of Real Deal Development Group, $3,000

— Real Deal Development Group, $3,000 (no relation to TRD)

— Dave Bauer, president of Westmark Development, $3,000

— Brock Nicholas, Orlando division president of Lennar, $2,500

— Russell Galbut, managing principal of Crescent Heights, $1,000

— Robert Werra, general partner of Amrecorp Realty, $1,000

— Poul Hornsleth, president and principal broker of R.W. Caldwell, Inc., $1,000

— Bill Watson, founder and owner of Watson Realty, $1,000

Real estate issues:

DeSantis has pledged to keep taxes low in Florida and to protect and restore the Everglades and improve the coastline through beach restoration and flood mitigation.

The candidate told reporters in mid-September that he is “not a global warming person” and didn’t want to be associated with the label. Little is still known about the specifics of DeSantis’ platform with relation to housing and development.

Achilles’ Heel: DeSantis recently drew ire from his most important endorser — President Trump — for publicly distancing himself from Trump’s comments on the death toll from Hurricane Maria, according to a report from Politico.