A lot of Florida politicos have crossed paths with Donald Trump over the years, but one prominent Republican who knew him long before he was The Donald, was Sarasota Republican Pat Neal. The former state legislator, Florida Christian Coalition chairman and top Republican fundraiser widely seen a leading candidate for Chief Financial Officer in 2018, was two years behind Trump at business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
"He is the same Don Trump then as he is now. ... He was just a rich, obnoxious, high roller," said Neal, acknowledging he and Trump were not close enough to even say hi when passing one another in Dietrich Hall. "I just knew there was a rich kid from New York who transferred in from Fordham, and that he had a white Austin Healey and he made a big swath wherever he went."
The developer is a Jeb Bush supporter, who would like to see Florida's former governor challenge the New York real estate mogul on substance: "Engage Trump in a discussion as to what is the future of our nation. Because Donald Trump hasn't really talked about that at all. He's talked about what he's against or what's wrong in a non-substantive way," Neal said. "Jeb Bush is particularly qualified to engage Trump on the issues. ... It's impossible to find any political philosophy or public policy goals (for Trump). I think it's all about Donald Trump.But as he seems to be popular it seems very destructive and what aI hate is the message it sends as to what the Republican party is. We can't be the anti-immigration party
Neal last year introduced Trump when he received the Sarasota GOP's "Statesman of the Year" award, and said the former reality star was "beguiling and very pleasant. But as one of Florida's most successful developers, Neal scoffed at the suggestion that he and Trump are both real estate success stories.
"I like real estate developers. But he's not a good real estate developer," Neal said.
But isn't it common for big wigs in the real estate business to have some history of bad deals and bankruptcies?
"I, Pat Neal, have never had a bankruptcy, never had a bank default," he responded. "When you sign a note of bonds, or sell stock with investors the right thing to do is pay them back. Not only did he lose money for people he borrowed from, but for a period there he lost money for his investors, particularly in the casino deals. That isn't the way you do it, and I would not say he is a credit to the real estate industry."