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Fried Jumps Into The '22 Florida Governor's Race

Nikki Fried
Lynne Sladky
FILE- In this Nov. 2, 2019, Nikki Fried, Democratic candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, speaks during a campaign rally, in Miami. Fried, the only Democrat currently holding statewide office, has teased a June 1 date to publicly announce whether she will run for Florida governor. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Fried seeks job change from Ag Commissioner to Governor

In a video released last month, Nikki Fried pretty much made her intentions known about challenging incumbent Republican governor Ron DeSantis.

“The people of the state of Florida will not be suppressed; their voices will not be shut down,” Fried said in the video. “They will rise up, they will see Ron DeSantis for who he is – an authoritarian dictator. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Ron DeSantis needs to be a one-term governor.”

On Tuesday, Fried made it official, filing the paperwork for her campaign and releasing a new video.

“I’m Nikki Fried, and I’m here to break the rigged system in Florida,” she said during her official announcement. “It’s corrupt, it’s anti-Democratic, and it’s time for something new.”

Fried says the governor is putting his party and political ambition ahead of Floridians. There’s some talk about DeSantis seeking the presidency in 2024. She criticizes the governor for trying to quash the voice of Floridians by signing bills that crack down on protests, and make it more difficult to vote and change the constitution.

“Just imagine what we could do if we break the whole rigged system,” said Fried in her new video. “We can end two decades of corruption designed to block your will and your ballot. On healthcare, wages, education, justice, and environment, marijuana, and equality of opportunity. We can build a state that gives power back to you.”

Fried is hoping to be the first Democrat to win a Florida governor’s race since 1994, when voters awarded a second term to Lawton Chiles. She joins former Republican governor and current Democratic congressman Charlie Crist on the primary ballot.

“Nikki has one advantage that you need in running for governor, which is that she’s run statewide; and in her case she actually won the race,” said Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University.

He points to the old joke in Florida, that “you’ve gotta lose to win." Translation: getting statewide recognition in Florida is difficult.

“And so, that’s to her advantage; the downside is with a government so dominant by Republicans, she hasn’t done much with the job,” Zelden said. “And as a result, she doesn’t have a whole lot of a record to run on.”

The key, says Zelden, is that a challenger must become known as someone willing to take on the incumbent head-on.

“Who can beat that incumbent; otherwise you’re not going to make it through the primary, let alone the general election,” said Zelden. “It’s to her advantage; she’s got such an advantage that the other candidates who are running don’t have. But, is that enough? That’s going to be the question that needs to be answered.”

Given the direction politics has been taking the last few cycles, the Florida governor’s race — many observers predict — will again be nasty. Nikki Fried is not only a woman, but is also Jewish. Zelden believes there will be attempts to use both against her, as seen from the playbook of Donald Trump, a close DeSantis ally.

“You take every advantage you’ve got and you do so by disparaging, by attacking, by belittling your opponent and those who would vote for your opponent,” Zelden said. “I expect an ugly race if it’s Fried versus DeSantis.”

Fried has been badgering the governor since taking the Ag Commissioner’s office, including criticism of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Case in point — vaccine distribution.

“That pattern is simply just too clear to avoid; give a big campaign contribution, big dollars, get special access to vaccines,” said Fried earlier this year. “Ahead of seniors; ahead of our teachers — and so many residents here in the state of Florida who are scared and are wanting these vaccines. If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is.”

Fundraising has been underway for the better part of a year and her most recent filing period, which ended April 30, was her political committee’s most lucrative to date.