Florida Democrats may not have gotten everything they wanted, but they still walked away with some noteworthy wins in the 2018 election.
The most important among them: Nikki Fried scoring a narrow victory over former state Rep. Matt Caldwell in Agriculture Commissioner race.
The former lobbyist was down by a handful of votes on Election Night, when it looked as if Democrats would go oh-for-five on 2018’s statewide races. It was certainly a big victory, but the Florida Democratic Party would have you think it was a little more historic that it really is.
“For the first time in more than a decade Florida Democrats have a voice in the Florida cabinet directing the second largest economic driver of Florida’s economy and oversight on key issues of gun safety, land and water management and consumer affairs,” FDP said in a Wednesday email. “Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried’s election was historic not only because she was the first woman to be elected to the position, but also the first Democrat.”
There are a couple problems with that statement.
First, it has not been more than a decade since Democrats held a seat on the Cabinet. Alex Sink, the Democrat’s lone Cabinet win in 2006, served through January 2011.
It’s as if the one-time gubernatorial candidate has sunk into obscurity, either. In the Ag. Commissioner race alone, she played a not-so-insignificant role — she was one of Fried’s earliest backers and major booster.
Sink endorsed Fried in June, just one week after she made the Ag. Commissioner primary a three-way race. Sink also did her part to help Fried get the campaign cash she needed to mount a competitive campaign against her well-funded Republican rival. She also brought Ruth’s List, a group she co-founded, on board.
But hey, lose a statewide race and FDP treats you like a stranger.
Second, Fried is not the first Democrat to be Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner. She’s won’t even be the first Democrat to hold the seat this millennium.
Former House Speaker Doyle Connor held the position from 1961 through 1991, and Bob Crawford held the job for a decade after that. He was even re-elected with a supermajority of the vote in 1998. And for those who want to get technical, Democrats held the Agriculture Commissioner post (or its equivalent) for 112 years, from New Year’s Eve 1888 through Jan. 30, 2001.
But enough about statewides, Sink, Fried and FDP’s lack of knowledge on its own history. The party also celebrated some big wins at the county level.
“Throughout the state, dozens of Democrats were elected to municipal seats, flipping seats in red counties because of investments made by the Florida Democratic party in rural areas,” the email read, noting gains in Lee County.
DeSoto, Lee, Orange, Miami-Dade, Seminole, and Union counties all got a shout out. The party even stressed the importance of its Orange County success by noting that it’s the fifth largest county in the state.