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Ron DeSantis gets solid hits on national issues in Fox News debate

The first Florida Republican gubernatorial debate mainly focused on national issues and how they affect Florida, giving U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis chance after chance to put Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on the defensive Thursday night.

The Fox News organized, moderated, and televised debate highlighting the first day of the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort Thursday night, and pressed the two on issues ranging from Supreme Court picks to President Donald Trump, and from international tariffs to immigration reform.

DeSantis’ wheelhouse.

While Putnam pressed his conservative values and credentials hard on everything from tightening abortion laws to gun control, DeSantis accused him of being soft on the estimated 850,000 illegal immigrants in Florida because Florida’s agriculture industry may want them, while waving his own endorsement from Trump like a trophy.

“He has been weak on the border, weak on immigration,” DeSantis charged to Putnam.

Putnam had few chances to talk about issues he’s watched dominate much of Tallahassee in recent years such as school reform, land conservation, jobs growth, or state budget priorities because they never remotely came up.

“I care more about the jobs in Ruskin [Florida] than about Russia,” Putnam said, one of several attempts, mostly that went nowhere, to turn the attention to Florida state issues.

Among the stronger points each candidate made:

— DeSantis promised to end all sanctuary cities, and threatened to remove from office any local official who tries to establish sanctuaries for illegal or undocumented immigrants, “if I’m allowed to.” But he did not commit to supporting deportation of the 850,000 estimated illegal immigrants in Florida, saying that was a Washington matter.

— Putnam strongly said he would support tougher laws against abortion, noting that he has promised to sign a “heartbeat bill” banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. However, even when the question was repeated, he did not say whether he wants to see the next Supreme Court justice be someone ready to overturn the landmark Roe V. Wade decision.

“As governor, I will always pursue a pro-life agenda,” Putnam said instead.

— Both of them fully stood by Trump. DeSantis noted his endorsement several times and pointed out that Putnam had backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush early in the 2016 presidential campaigns and never campaigned for Trump.

“You couldn’t find Adam Putnam [on the Trump campaign trail] with a search warrant,” DeSantis said.

— Both of them blamed Democrats and the media for incivility and gave Trump a complete pass.

“Trump has almost the entire media against him. Fake news, day after day after day. He’s got the entire Democratic Party after him. He’s got the lobbyists after him. He’s got the bureaucracy after him. And he’s got some Republicans who’ve come after him to kneecap him,” DeSantis said. “So he is under an attack like no president has ever faced. And he is standing tall for us.”

Putnam agreed completely, adding a finger of blame toward President Barack Obama for incivility in the nation.

“This method of incivility did not begin with President Trump,” Putnam said. “It’s only reported by the left-wing media because they want to undermine our president and the conservative movement.”

— DeSantis said he does not support reuniting children with their illegal immigrant parents until they both are deported back to their home countries.

That led to a side debate in which DeSantis accused Putnam of killing state E-Verify requirements for Florida in behind the scenes efforts, to allow Florida agriculture operations the chance to hire illegal immigrants as laborers.

“He didn’t put Florida first there,” DeSantis said. “He put his big donors who want cheap labor ahead of citizens.”

Putnam denied that and said he fully supports Trump’s agenda on immigration and faulted Congress — and DeSantis by association — for not passing it.

As for border security, Putnam pointed out, as he did a couple times earlier, that he has been endorsed by 45 Republican sheriffs in Florida, saying they are confident he would be tough.

“Law enforcement has weighed our two backgrounds and weighed our two records and law enforcement is firmly in my camp,” Putnam said.

— DeSantis said he would not have signed the bill in the last legislative session that sought to secure schools but also included gun control measures such as raising the minimum age to 21 for rifle purchases.

— DeSantis also accused Putnam of covering up the failure of his department to run federal background checks for more than a year on concealed weapons license permits.

Putnam replied, “I held people accountable. I held myself accountable.”

— Both of them stated their opposition to Medicaid expansion and Obamacare in general.

— Putnam went a step farther and said he would favor requiring all able-bodied Floridians to work in order to receive any public assistance.

— Putnam accused DeSantis of being an absentee candidate, campaigning from TV studios. DeSantis replied that he’s been busy serving his country, as he had previously had to leave Florida to serve in the military. Still, Putnam had the night’s first laugh line, in his opening remarks.

“It’s completely different from a Washington D.C. studio,” Putnam said of the Gaylord Palms stage, “and I just want to say, ‘Welcome to Florida, congressman.'”

— Both of them offered support for medical marijuana because Florida voters had approved it, but both offered strong opposition to recreational marijuana, answering one of the few questions that were particularly Florida-centric.

John Morgan hints at ballot initiative for marijuana legalization

John Morgan on Tuesday said he’s “going to look at starting a fund” toward an initiative to legalize marijuana, including recreational use, on the 2020 ballot.

He has previously has been on the record supporting marijuana legalization. His latest tweets move him further in terms of personally promising a political solution.

The Orlando attorney and businessman, who was behind the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in the state, was tweeting in response to a Florida Politics tweet on an appellate court order.

The 1st District Court of Appeal earlier Tuesday denied a request for a case on the state’s marijuana smoking ban to be moved directly to the Supreme Court.

Morgan organized that lawsuit; Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban violates the amendment, and the state appealed.

“Maybe it’s just time for full legalization,” Morgan tweeted. “It would pass with flying colors!”

Marijuana has been legalized in nine states, the District of Columbia and, most recently, Canada. Twenty-nine states, including Florida, allow medical use of marijuana. The 2016 amendment was approved by 71 percent of voters.

Morgan already chairs a political committee, Florida For A Fair Wage, that seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. It would Florida’s minimum wage to $10, effective Sept. 30, 2021, and then raise it $1 a year until it is $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.

Morgan’s tweets are below.

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Background from The News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission.

Court rejects speeding up marijuana smoking case

An appeals court Tuesday rejected a request to quickly send a major medical-marijuana case to the Florida Supreme Court.

The case focuses on arguments about whether a 2017 law improperly bars patients from smoking medical marijuana.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last month ruled that the smoking ban violated a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Attorneys for the state appealed Gievers’ ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Plaintiffs in the case, including the group People United for Medical Marijuana, filed a motion June 8 asking that the case be “certified” to the Supreme Court — a move that would effectively lead to bypassing the 1st District Court of Appeal. The plaintiffs argued, in part, that the ban on smoking marijuana “presents an immediate threat of irreparable injuries to those patients for whom this medical (smoking) treatment is currently prohibited.”

But attorneys for the state disputed that the case should go immediately to the Supreme Court.

“(There) are various other forms of medical marijuana presently available and approved (or permitted) … in Florida for qualifying patients,” the state argued in a June 12 brief. “For example, vaping or vaporization of marijuana flower is permitted for medical use, so long as the flower is in a sealed, tamperproof receptacle.”

The appeals court Tuesday issued a one-sentence order rejecting the request to certify the case to the Supreme Court, though the order did not explain the reasoning.

Proposed medical marijuana rules already bringing challenges

They haven’t even been approved, but proposed rules on medical marijuana have already drawn legal challenges.

Liberty Health Sciences, a licensed medicinal cannabis provider, is challenging two rules, both debuted only two weeks ago. One is on a “supplemental licensing fee” and another covers a “variance procedure” for medical marijuana treatment centers, or MMTCs, as providers as called in Florida.

Both challenges were filed last week in the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings. “The department will review the challenges,” said Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta in an email.

The fee in question, an “annual payment by a registered (provider) to cover the (state’s) costs of administering” the law governing cannabis, came with a price tag of $174,844.

Liberty’s challenge is that the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, set the fee too high. That’s because the calculation requires the state’s 13 currently licensed MMTCs “to bear the burden of the supplemental licensure fee when the fee should be borne by at least 17 MMTCs.”

The money from the fee would help fund the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa. Lawmakers gave it a mission “to conduct rigorous scientific research, provide education, disseminate research, and guide policy for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for the medical use of marijuana.”

The other rule would “establish a procedure for the Department of Health to grant variances from the representations made in a medical marijuana treatment center’s initial application for registration.”

The idea behind that rule, for one example, was to allow providers who had originally applied to use a certain marijuana processing procedure to later ask to use a newer, better technology.

But Liberty’s challenge suggests it could also cause administrative nightmares by “requiring an MMTC to request a variance before hiring or firing any employee or manager.”

Liberty Health Sciences is a subsidiary of Canadian-based DFMMJ Investments, which itself is partly owned by Aphria, a Canadian producer of medical cannabis products.

With dispensaries in Summerfield, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Port St. Lucie, the company is represented by The Lockwood Law Firm of Tallahassee.

“We look forward to working with the department on the substance of both rules,” firm principal John Lockwood told Florida Politics. “We’re not generally opposed to the concept of either rule. We’re just concerned with some of the formalities imposed. We want to accomplish both our goal and the department’s goal as well.”

The filings are below.

Appellate court puts hold on smokable medical marijuana

An appellate court has shot down a trial judge’s order to make immediate her ruling that medical marijuana can be smoked in Florida.

The 1st District Court of Appeal, in a one-page order dated Monday, quashed Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ order allowing patients to smoke

The state’s appeal of the decision placed an automatic ‘stay,’ or hold, on the ruling pending review. Gievers’ order lifted that stay.

“The stay provided for by (the) Florida Rule(s) of Appellate Procedure … shall remain in effect pending final disposition of the merits of this appeal,” the appellate court’s Monday order said. “An opinion setting forth this Court’s reasoning will issue at a later date.”

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health had said the agency is reviewing the ruling and “working every day to implement the law.” Smoking was banned by lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott in an implementing bill passed last year for the 2016 constitutional amendment approving medical marijuana. 

The agency said medical marijuana is still available to patients — though not in smoking form. It regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Meantime, attorneys for plaintiffs in the smoking case and for Joe Redner — the Tampa strip club mogul who won a decision allowing him to grow and juice his own medical marijuana — have asked the state’s Supreme Court to take over the appeals.

John Morgan, the Orlando attorney behind the constitutional amendment, also organized the smoking lawsuit. He has called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott, now running for U.S. Senate, to drop further court challenges of Gievers’ ruling.

She previously found “there is no likelihood of success” by the state on appeal.

The governor “is wasting taxpayers’ money on this frivolous appeal while veterans, cops, firefighters (with PTSD) and really sick people suffer,” Morgan said in a statement. “This callous meanness has no room in Florida. This act of cruelty will cost him the Senate seat.”

The department also reported last Friday that the state had surpassed 100,000 people with an approved medical marijuana patient identification card, but a spokesman said that would not trigger the issuance of another four licenses for marijuana providers under state law.

That “was everyone’s expectation and assumption,” Jeff Sharkey, founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, said last week. “I think there will probably be more than a little disappointment over this.”

Nikki Fried campaign video features marijuana grow-op, call for gun control

According to newly filed Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried, the state is lax on gun control and too overbearing on medical marijuana.

In a campaign video released Monday morning, the Democrat makes her introduction to voters by setting up a dichotomy between pot and assault rifles.

“One helps sick and dying Floridians and is over-regulated,” Fried says of marijuana in the video. “And the other one is used to terrorize our schools and our communities, and is barely regulated at all.”

Fried, whose work as a lobbyist has focused on expanding access to marijuana, filed last week to run for the Cabinet post. Her advocacy for pot bridged into her campaign, where it will likely be a defining element.

In the video, which features pan shots of a Southwest Florida marijuana grow operation, she asks, “Honestly, what type of Agriculture Commissioner could be against a plant and the farmers who grow it?”

When Fried brings up assault rifles, an image of current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appears alongside the headline to a recent Tampa Bay Times report detailing a concealed-carry weapons permit background check lapse during Putnam’s tenure.

The video will air on Fried’s social media. Campaign manager Matt Gotha told Florida Politics that “no decisions have been made regarding putting money into the ad as of yet.”

Per a news release accompanying the video, Fried “intends to use the office to expand access to medical marijuana for sick and suffering Floridians, support the agriculture industry while protecting Florida’s land, water and beaches, advocate for consumers, and be an independent, compassionate voice on the Florida Cabinet.”

Fried, 40, will face off against Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and David Walker in the Democratic primary. Both have grim fundraising numbers. Porter has $22,900 on hand and Walker has $148,550.

If Fried makes it to November, she’ll likely have to fight against one of a few deep-pocketed Republican candidates. State Rep. Matt Caldwell currently boasts $1.26 million banked for his run and state Sen. Denise Grimsley has $1.04 million at the ready. Former Rep. Baxter Troutman has largely self-funded his campaign, which had $1.5 million on hand at the beginning of June.

State tops 100,000 marijuana patients — but no more providers

Florida now has topped 100,000 “active” and “qualified” patients in its medical marijuana use registry, the Department of Health announced in an email Friday.

But again, according to a department spokesman, that doesn’t mean the department will issue another four licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana, as provided under state law.

The state had exceeded 100,000 overall almost two months ago — coincidentally on April 20, or 4/20 — in its medical marijuana use registry. Friday’s mark of 100,372 refers specifically to those that have an approved patient identification card application.

“That figure does not completely reflect an actual threshold that would trigger the new licenses,” spokesman Devin Galleta said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we do have the ability to approve new licenses, we do expect there to be four new licenses available at that time.”

The latest 100,000-plus tally covers “all applications approved over time,” Galleta explained, including “renewals and nonactive patients, so that doesn’t necessarily reflect the true number of active and qualified patients in the registry.”

But exceeding 100,000 approved ID cards to trigger extra licenses “was everyone’s expectation and assumption,” said Jeff Sharkey, founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida. “I think there will probably be more than a little disappointment over this.”

State law says within six months of cracking the 100,000 mark, “the department shall license four additional medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs).” With every additional 100,000 patients, another four licenses have to issue.

Those patients, however, have to be “active” and “qualified.” That means “a resident of this state who has been added to the medical marijuana use registry by a qualified physician to receive marijuana or a marijuana delivery device for a medical use, and who has a qualified patient identification card.”

As the department’s own disclaimer says, “Not all patients entered into the medical marijuana use registry apply for medical marijuana use identification cards.”

When asked when the number of patients would trigger the issuance of additional licenses, Galleta said he “was not certain on that,” but would seek clarification from the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), which regulates the drug.

Added Sharkey: “I agree it would be good to know what that number is. I believe (having over 100,000 approved ID cards) is what most legislators thought would trigger new licenses.”

Approved MMTCs currently number 13, with 43 retail locations across the state, records show.

With a lack of new licenses, businesses seeking to get into the medicinal cannabis market in Florida will likely take to buying licenses from existing providers.

Earlier this month, MedMen Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles, the country’s biggest medical marijuana provider, said it had agreed to pay $53 million for a license from Central Florida’s Treadwell Nursery.

Others, such as Louis Del Favero Orchids — a Tampa orchid nursery — are seeking to use a provision in state law that gives preference in granting licenses to companies with underused or shuttered citrus factories. That was part of legislation that implemented the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in the state.

Updated June 25 — In an email to Florida Politics, Galleta clarified that the actual number of “qualified” medical marijuana patients was 95,178. He said the department “will add this number to our weekly OMMU update published every Friday.”

Rick Scott talks pot, Donald Trump

Gov. Rick Scott made his way through his first Cabinet meeting as a candidate for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, and while the meeting focused exclusively on state matters, the questions that followed from reporters unsurprisingly centered on federal issues.

Scott is leading his Democratic opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, in a few early polls and handily outspending him in advertising — at least for now. The race will undoubtedly be competitive and there’s a real chance Scott takes the top of the ticket in November.

So it follows that the Governor was asked on Wednesday for comment on legalizing pot, for his opinion of President Donald Trump and for his thoughts on the Affordable Care Act. 

A bipartisan effort is bubbling in Congress to ease the federal ban on marijuana. If passed, it would give states more discretion with the drug. The President has indicated mild support for the idea, though it would need Congressional approval first. 

“Well, I’ll deal with that when I make it to the Senate,” Scott said.

The Governor also was asked about the issue of medical marijuana — which is currently in the fore in the Sunshine State. A judge recently ruled unconstitutional a state ban on smoking the drug for treatment. Scott’s attorneys have appealed the ruling.

“What’s important to me is that everyone has access to the health care that they need,” Scott said. He said “plenty of doctors” make the drug available and “thousands of people” use it without smoking.

“What this issue is about is how you get to take it,” Scott said. “I’m going to continue to follow the law. The constitutional amendment passed, the Legislature by a bipartisan manner overwhelmingly passed a bill, and I’m going to support it.”  

Another reporter brought up the Justice Department’s decision to no longer fight for patients with pre-existing medical conditions who face higher rates or no option for coverage. Reports the New York Times, “If that argument is accepted by the federal court, it could eviscerate major parts of the Affordable Care Act that remain in place despite numerous attacks by President Trump and his administration.”

Scott remained vague on the issue.

“I think everybody ought to be able to get health care insurance,” Scott said. But he said the Affordable Care Act needs to be fixed because it’s “caused our premiums to skyrocket.”

He added: “But I don’t believe in grand bargains, I believe in incrementally trying to make change.” Among his brief suggestions: more competition, plans that fit individual families, and rewarding “people who take care of themselves.”

After being prompted by reporters to discuss Trump’s presidency, Scott lauded the administration’s work to secure funding for the dike at Lake Okeechobee. Scott said, “I’m optimistic that’s going to happen.”

As well, he said he appreciated the efforts of the Trump administration to reconsider oil drilling off Florida’s shore.

But when asked if Trump was doing a good job, Scott responded: “What I want is results.”

Joe Redner also wants Supreme Court to decide on medical marijuana

In an act of ‘humble plagiarism,’ Joe Redner‘s attorney is following the lead of John Morgan in asking the state Supreme Court to take over litigation on medical marijuana.

In a filing posted Monday, attorney Luke Lirot “suggests” that the state’s highest court take over deciding whether Redner — the Tampa strip club mogul — can grow and juice his own marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Jon Mills, the attorney who won a lower-court decision that medicinal cannabis can be smoked in Florida, has filed a similar pleading. The same judge presided over both cases: Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. Both decisions were quickly appealed by the state and are now at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

“For the same reasons articulated in a virtually identical submittal … from which this submittal is humbly plagiarized in good faith, the important issue decided by the trial court requires immediate resolution,” Lirot wrote.

“Supreme Court review is highly probable because the issue inevitably involves the interpretation of a new section of the Constitution and the unconstitutionality of a statute,” he added. “Delay from two rounds of review only increases the injury for those who must wait to access a constitutionally protected medical treatment and postpones final determination by the Court.”

Both lawsuits involve the state constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, passed by 71 percent of voters in 2016. The amendment was spearheaded by Morgan, an Orlando attorney, entrepreneur and medical marijuana advocate. He also organized the smoking lawsuit. 

Gievers first ruled that the amendment gave Redner, a lung cancer survivor, the right to grow his own marijuana and make juice of it to prevent his cancer from recurring.

She later decided the amendment also included a right to smoke marijuana when a physician decides that’s the best use of the drug for a patient.

Both rulings are being fought by the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“There is a need for an immediate resolution of this dispute,” Lirot wrote. “The patients who qualify for medical marijuana … are those with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

“For many Floridians, including Mr. Redner, their health care issues are urgent.”

Nikki Fried tries to parlay pot into Cabinet position

Nikki Fried has spent the past three years trying to tear down barriers to getting medical marijuana to Florida patients, facing roadblocks from state health officials and lawmakers in the process.

Now, a frustrated Fried is turning her advocacy into a broader platform — she’s running for Agriculture Commissioner.

It’s been no secret for some time among the state’s medical-marijuana industry insiders that the Fort Lauderdale Democrat was going to enter the race. But on Tuesday, Fried formally filed qualifying papers to run for the Cabinet post, which is open as term-limited Republican Adam Putnam runs for Governor.

Like many people in Florida and throughout the country, “I think that politics in government is broken,” Fried told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday.

“I witnessed it firsthand with the implementation of medical marijuana,” she said, referring to a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016.

Fried is among many critics who accuse Gov. Rick Scott’s administration of dragging its feet to put in place regulations for the state’s budding marijuana industry. Medical marijuana supporters also blame state lawmakers for creating too many obstacles to the industry and patients, such as a ban on smokable medical marijuana that a Tallahassee judge recently decided ran afoul of the constitutional amendment.

“Seventy-two percent of Floridians voted for medical marijuana in our Constitution, but the Legislature and our governor continued to block it every step of the way,” Fried, 40, said. “So I’m running because I think that we need new leadership in Tallahassee. I want to serve the state and listen to the will of the people and make sure that government starts getting back on track.”

Fried runs a one-woman lobbying shop, called “Igniting Florida,” which most people consider a tongue-in-cheek reference to her work in the marijuana arena.

Laughing, she explained that “Ignite” was the name of her party when she cut her political teeth as student body president at the University of Florida, where she also received her law degree and a master’s in campaign politics.

Like other experts in the marijuana industry, Fried believes that full legalization of marijuana is in Florida’s future, but she said she is currently focused on ensuring that the constitutional amendment is implemented and that sick patients get the treatment they need.

“As a former public defender, I saw day-in, day-out discrimination in law enforcement and so many of our minorities being arrested disproportionately on simple possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. The state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars incarcerating individuals for simple possession,” she said.

But for now, she said, the state needs to begin doing research and educating the public about the benefits of medicinal marijuana, which Fried called a better alternative to costly and highly addictive prescription drugs.

“This is a solution to our opiate crisis,” she said, adding that states where medical marijuana is legal have seen overdoses caused by opiates drop by up to 25 percent.

Fried said she believes she is the only candidate in the country who comes from the marijuana industry.

“Not just a supporter of the industry but knows all of the inner workings of the medical marijuana program not only here in Florida but across the country and understands all of the obstacles that have been put in the way of full implementation,” she said.

But marijuana isn’t all that Fried has on her mind in her pursuit of the Cabinet post.

She said she’s also paying attention to the other duties of the Agriculture Commissioner, including the issuance of concealed-weapons licenses.

Putnam came under fire after a report by the Tampa Bay Times last week that a former employee failed for more than a year to conduct national background checks on applications for concealed-weapons licenses. Putnam told reporters Saturday that the former employee failed to follow up on 365 applications and that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had revoked 291 permits that had been issued in error.

“When I saw the article, my stomach dropped on how somebody who has been out there for eight years talking about his concealed weapons permits would allow something like this to happen. It’s almost like he stopped watching the store, whether that was because he was running for governor the whole time or just didn’t recognize the importance of this,” Fried said.

Fried stopped short of saying that Putnam should resign, as many Democrats have demanded.

“Certainly he does not need a promotion,” she said.

Fried said she is proudest of her accomplishments “defending people my entire life” while working on “white hat issues” including her stint in the public defender’s office, representing homeowners facing foreclosure and successfully lobbying for legislation that resulted in special-needs children in foster care getting legal representation.

Fried will face off against two other Democrats in the Aug. 28 primary, Jeffrey Porter and R. David Walker. The GOP side of the contest features Baxter Troutman, a former state House member from Winter Haven; Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring; Rep. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers; and Plant City businessman Mike McCalister, a retired Army National Guard and Reserves colonel.

When asked what a South Florida lawyer knows about the agriculture industry, Fried said people throughout the state want good leaders.

“I have a proven track record of breaking down barriers, crossing party lines to get things accomplished. They want somebody who’s going to listen and fight for them. I have been a strong advocate for anything I fight for. That would be no different” as Agriculture Commissioner, she said.

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