With a recount looking, Democratic candidate Nikki Fried declared victory Saturday in her race to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.
Fried also named former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy as chair of her transition team. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th congressional District will serve as a co-chair, as will Fred Guttenberg. Guttenberg has become active in the political scene since his daughter, Jaime, was killed in February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
At this stage, Fried leads her Republican opponent, Matt Caldwell, by just over 5,000 votes according to the latest numbers.
But with the first count in the race completed, Fried says voters have made their choice.
“The process has worked,” Fried said, speaking in front of supporters in Plantation.
“The will of the voters was heard, and the people’s choice is clear. I’m humbled and honored to be elected Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as the first woman to have ever been elected to this position.”
The election is not over, however. Fried’s margin gives her a 0.06 percentage point lead over Caldwell. Florida law requires any race within a 0.5 percentage point margin to go to a machine recount.
Fried’s tally climbed in recent days as ballots continued to be counted in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
That was followed by a lawsuit filed Friday against Snipes. His lawyers allege that Broward County accepted absentee ballots after the polls had close.
Though the race remains incredibly tight, the Florida Democratic Party has also congratulated Fried on her “win.”
Murphy also released a statement on his new role chairing Fried’s transition team, should she formally be declared the winner.
“Over the course of this race I’ve gotten to know Nikki Fried and she’s impressed me as a knowledgeable, hard-working, independent leader—she puts common-sense above politics and will do the right things as Commissioner,” Murphy said.
“I’m looking forward to working with her and Commissioner [Adam] Putnam on a seamless transition and helping her put together an office which will accomplish her priorities of protecting our waterways, being a fighter for farmers in Tallahassee and Washington, ensuring complete background checks, and expanding access to medical marijuana.”
Of her transition chairs, Fried said, “They bring a diversity of experience, expertise, and leadership in the important issues facing our state.”
She closed with a note reflecting back on what turned out to be a wild 2018 midterm cycle in the state.
“This election is unusual, and even historic,” Fried said.
“I plan to work my hardest, so I’m ready to tackle the issues as your next Commissioner of Agriculture.”