Gov. Ron DeSantis has noted “chirping” from critics on his handling of COVID-19.
One of his most prominent critics serves alongside him on the Florida Cabinet
Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, has exercised her department’s executive authority, with a flurry of administrative orders last week.
But there are things she can’t do that she believes the Governor should.
Friday evening saw Fried urging DeSantis to issue a California-style “stay at home” order, while critiquing his “piecemeal” approach.
“Shutting down one of the nation’s largest states is a decision that will have an economic impact — but it is a decision that will save lives… As the nation’s third largest state, we need to go further, and we cannot afford to lose another week.”
On Saturday, participating on a call with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, Fried was described as a “leader in the state’s response” ahead of her comments about “growing concern” about coronavirus.
Yet what Fried talked about Saturday morning was not what she was concerned about Friday evening. Instead, her response would seem to suggest there is little daylight between her and DeSantis.
Fried, speaking quickly, described administrative guidance to grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations about basic hygiene protocols, including handwashing and sanitizing surfaces. She also described how her department is helping provide lunches to children who might not have access to them otherwise.
Despite shortages on shelves at Publix and other supermarkets, Fried says the food supply chain is “steady.”
DeSantis has been more restrained in exercising authority.
“Governors in these situations have serious police powers,” he said at a press conference Friday in Tallahassee.
“At the end of the day, I can issue a mandate … but if [local authorities] don’t want to enforce it, it’s toothless,” DeSantis added.
The Governor did issue Executive Orders Friday closing gyms and dining rooms in restaurants, ending elective surgeries, and closing beaches in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
However, he has resisted pressure from Democrats like Fried to go farther.
Fried urging DeSantis to go farther in exercising power has an attendant irony to it.
DeSantis was behind a play to clip the wings of Fried’s office, a failed attempt by the House to move the Office of Energy to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Fried bemoaned the “partisan power grab.”
When it comes to enforcement of coronavirus prohibitions, however, Fried would have DeSantis grab more power.
Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson and Sarah Mueller contributed to this post.