If Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner Matt Caldwell gets his way, he will have a two-debate “contest of ideas” with Democrat Nikki Fried.
However, the two can’t agree on when and where to debate.
“Florida’s future is at stake this November. Will we continue the low tax, pro-jobs policies that have brought prosperity to Florida, or will we reverse course with policies that raise taxes by over a billion dollars and kill jobs? Those decisions will have a profound effect on Florida’s future,” Caldwell wrote to Fried Friday.
“We are very different candidates, with very different track records, running on very different policy platforms. I propose that this be more than the two candidates settling into fixed ideological positions or descending into partisan bickering. These debates should be meaningful and substantive and offer voters our visions for Florida’s future,” Caldwell added.
The idea of “track records” soon came up in Fried’s messaging. She called attention to reportage of the NRA’s Marion Hammer‘s strong influence over the office under Adam Putnam, calling Caldwell “another NRA sellout” who “chose not to investigate the failures and corruption of the concealed weapons permitting system” while serving as Chair of the House Government Accountability Committee.
Beyond that issue, expect non-traditional issues in Ag Commissioner races to come up, including the cannabis industry.
Caldwell, who helped to write the 2014 Charlotte’s Web legislation, believes that cannabis should be rescheduled to allow more federal research (even as he does not believe a medicine can be smoked). Fried, a cannabis lobbyist who advocates smokable and legalized adult-use variants of the substance, has been frustrated by banks being unwilling to handle her campaign contributions because they are tainted with the verboten herb.
One debate Caldwell proposed would be in Miami, on CBS-4 moderated by Jim DeFede. The second debate is more open, with “several invitations from interested parties.”
However, Fried spox Max Flugrath notes that in the last week, Fried agreed to two dates, but “on both, the Caldwell campaign declined any availability.”
Flugrath reiterated Fried’s question for Caldwell regarding why he “chose not to investigate the failures and corruption of the concealed weapons permitting system, and explain to voters why he opposed and obstructed the medical marijuana amendment that 71% of Floridians supported.”
Caldwell is slowly replenishing his campaign coffers after an expensive primary. With $157,000 of new money between Sept. 8 and 14 for his “Friends of Matt Caldwell” political committee to add to the nearly $200,000 he had on hand, the Fort Myers state Rep. is well positioned against Fried, who has roughly $100,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 14.
Recent polling shows Fried up two points on Caldwell (inside the margin of error); however, it is possible that the resource disparity between the two campaigns may impact future surveys.