Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is stepping into the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, as she’s endorsing Oz Vazquez in the Democratic primary.
The state’s highest-ranking elected Democrat is selecting Vazquez over his opponent, former Navy JAG Officer Pam Keith. The CD 18 is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast.
“Florida’s 18th Congressional District deserves a Congressperson who will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, will be a champion for clean water, and will work to get things done for the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches,” Fried said Friday. “Oz Vazquez will be that person. He spent his career fighting for Florida’s working families and seniors, and will continue that fight in Congress.”
Added Vazquez, “It is an incredible honor to have the support of Commissioner Fried. Last year, I launched my campaign to give my community a voice in Washington who will look out for them, and not play politics with their economic well-being and access to health care. Those qualities are more important now than ever, as the COVID-19 crisis has exposed so much need here and across Florida.”
Vazquez is an attorney with experience working as a Deputy Solicitor General in Florida.
Fried was the only Democrat to win statewide office in 2018. She’s making her choice known in a fairly competitive primary in CD 18.
In Late June, Vazquez secured a coveted endorsement from the Florida AFL-CIO. Keith has garnered her fair share of major endorsements as well. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — a former 2020 presidential candidate — endorsed Keith in late June as well.
Keith also holds a fundraising edge over Vazquez. Through the second quarter of 2020, Keith has raised more than $185,000 as compared to just over $108,000 for Vazquez. She also leads in cash on hand by a $136,000 to $90,000 margin.
Still, Vazquez is hoping an endorsement from the state’s de facto Democratic leader will impact the shape of the Aug. 18 Democratic primary.
“Under Commissioner Fried’s leadership, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ response to the pandemic has been instrumental in preventing food insecurity and protecting Florida consumers,” Vazquez added.
“I’m proud to have the Commissioner’s endorsement. As the next congressman for the 18th District, I look forward to ensuring she has the resources needed from Washington to continue the department’s life-saving efforts as Florida faces the long road to recovery from this pandemic.”
Mast is also facing a primary challenge from retired police sergeant Nick Vessio. Non-party affiliated candidate K.W. Miller has qualified for the contest as well.