Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Nikki Fried Is In

From the Miami Herald:

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is Florida’s only Democrat in statewide office and effectively, the head of the state’s Democratic Party.

But even still, many Floridians don’t know who the agriculture commissioner is or what they do.

Now, three years after pulling off a historic win, Fried is making another run at reintroducing herself.

Fried announced in a video message Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination to run for governor against incumbent Ron DeSantis, whom she’s publicly lambasted since the day she took office.

Fried has been a thorn in the side of the governor since she was sworn in, but as of late has raised her profile largely on her criticism of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She appears often on cable news and fund-raises off responses to the signing of right-wing legislation. Her most recent filing period, which ended April 30, was her political committee’s most lucrative to date.

“Being a governor means not being bullish and believing that you are right,” Fried told the Miami Herald in an interview Friday. “It’s bringing experts together and making people in our state feel confident that we’ve got their backs.”

She says her run centers on the idea that it’s in the executive office that she could “have the greatest impact” on what she believes to be the root of Florida’s problems: the GOP’s 23-year hold on Tallahassee.

“In every turn, I have seen that the system is rigged, and working against the people,” she said in an interview. “And it’s time that we break the system together. And after two decades of Republican governors, it’s time for us to try something new. And, you know, it’s time that we have leaders who will follow the will of the people … and I think that that really goes to the crux of what drives me.”

For now, her only primary opponent will be one-term governor and current Congressman Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, who announced his run last month.

Fried says that beating DeSantis in 2022 is not “the only way” to break the system, but that the status quo she sees under his administration “just can’t continue.” She noted that voters don’t want career politicians, and that she represents the fresh face to represent them, a similar tone she set in her run for agriculture commissioner, where she was up against Polk County Republican Matt Caldwell, whose personality and tendency toward cowboy boots fell in line with agriculture commissioners past. Fried, a South Florida attorney, broke the stereotype.

Ms. Fried (pronounced “freed”) may not be a household name to most Floridians, but if you pay close attention at the gas station, her name is on every inspection pump sticker, so there’s some subtle campaigning.  Rep. Val Demmings of Orlando has also indicated that she will run for governor. Ms. Demmings, who is a former police chief and at one point on Joe Biden’s list as a possible vice presidential candidate, would bring to three the number of possible challengers to DeSantis.

Whoever wins will have a tough race, even as the demographics in the state shift more towards purple. Most of the state outside of a few urban areas such as South Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties — and Orlando and Tampa/St. Pete are solidly red if not Trumpian. And even if a Democrat should win the governor’s race, they would still have to deal with a legislature that is second only to Texas for being full-fledged right-wing-nutty. DeSantis has exploited that support in his unabashed bid to become the next mini-Trump, including his abandonment of the traditional Republican mantra of smaller government and faith in local control.  This seems to sit fine with the folks in the rest of the state who seem to think that certain amendments to the Constitution such as freedom of speech apply only to white Christian men, and laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t mean Other People get to participate.

I don’t have a particular dog in the fight for the Democratic governor’s race in Florida, but I would love to write the blog post headline saying “Florida Fried From DeSantis,” or “DeSantis Gets Fried, Dried, and Laid to the Side.”  A simple, silly goal, but so worth it.

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