's commissioner of agriculture and consumer services and the state's highest-ranking Democrat, declared her candidacy for governor
against Republican Ron DeSantis
(R) on Tuesday.
Fried, a 43-year-old attorney, is currently Florida's only statewide Democratic elected official, and she will face off for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against Rep. Charlie Crist
(D), who previously governed Florida as a moderate Republican.
“I’ve spent my entire life standing up for those who needed a fighter, for those seeking justice,” Fried told Stardia, “and now, as governor, I’m going to stand up for the people
of our state.”
Fried, portraying herself as a champion of ordinary Floridians, stated that as commissioner, she advocated for farmers and sought “justice” for defendants while working as a public defender.
“At every turn, I have seen a system rigged against the people of our state,” Fried said, adding, “It is time to break that system.”
Fried, a former lobbyist for Florida's medical marijuana
industry, oversaw the state's legalization of the commercial hemp industry and worked to protect Florida's waterways from pollution and depletion as agriculture commissioner.
Fried has also ended the state government's close coordination with the National Rifle Association
in her capacity as head of the department that approves concealed-carry gun
“I went up against the NRA
and got them kicked out of our department,” she explained.
DeSantis has become a national Republican celebrity in the last year as a result of his insistence on reopening Florida's schools
and businesses sooner than many Democratic governors.
He also enjoys mutual contempt from national media
outlets, which has endeared him to the Republican base; one supporter referred to him as an avatar of “competent Trumpism.”
It's time for a change after two decades of Republican governors.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried of Florida
However, as DeSantis prepares for a possible presidential run in 2024, Fried and other Democrats
hope that his status as a conservative icon will turn off enough voters
“Ron has fully embraced a right-wing agenda and an authoritarian style of governing that fits more for a regime than, frankly, the state of Florida,” she said.
However, DeSantis has taken some steps that have won over moderates, such as providing a $1,000 bonus
to public school teachers, and voters’ approval of a $15 minimum wage in a state referendum in 2020 has taken that issue off the table.
Fried, who hopes to expand Medicaid
as governor, improve infrastructure
, and fortify the state's defenses against the effects of climate change
, will face a tough fight against Crist.
Crist was the Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. After literally and metaphorically embracing then-President Barack Obama
, Crist was on the verge of losing his 2010 bid for the Republican U.S. Senate
nomination, so he withdrew from the primary and ran an unsuccessful independent campaign for the Senate.
Crist won a House
seat in the Tampa area in 2016, after formally registering as a Democrat.
Fried expressed concern that Crist's decision to run would cost Democrats his House seat if state Republicans
redraw district lines, and she made veiled jabs at Crist's past as a Republican.
“We’ve had two decades of Republican governors,” Fried said, adding, “it’s time for a change.”
“What you see is what you get from me; I have not changed my positions or beliefs,” she added.
Fried also believes she is the best-equipped Democrat to unseat DeSantis because she won her statewide Florida race in 2018, a year when every other Democrat lost.
“I’ve fought the good old boys up here in Tallahassee my entire life,” she said, noting that she was the first female student body
president at the University of Florida as well as the state’s first female agriculture commissioner.