Dueling COVID-19 campaigns reignite Nikki Fried, Ron DeSantis feud
Nikki Fried continues her battles with the Governor. Image via Colin Hackley.

DeSantis and Fried seem poised for a ballot-box confrontation.

Nikki Fried, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, rolled out a public information campaign to combat COVID-19 Monday. And in doing so rebooted her feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Fried described frustrations with the Governor’s mitigation strategy amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and rolled out her “Be Smart Florida” campaign, which urges people to take precautions, including masking up.

Fried, the only Democrat elected statewide, has been a frequent critic of the Governor’s response to the novel coronavirus, but the decision to launch her parallel campaign to the Governor’s was a novelty.

She didn’t have state health officials, or other leadership with her, symptomatic of the chasm between her office and Republican leadership elsewhere.

Fried said she has been critical of the Governor, but “continue[s] to put out her hand” to work with him.

To reporters in Tallahassee Monday, she gave a soundbite-heavy address on how the virus is “out of control” and the state has “never needed more to be united in response and common defense.”

“But we find ourselves as divided as ever,” Fried lamented, urging those listening to “please know that someone in Florida leadership hears you.”

For the Commissioner, this continues what has been a one-sided recent tradition of trying to get the Governor’s attention only to be unceremoniously rebuffed.

Earlier this month, Fried said it was clear DeSantis “is not going to be the leader Florida needs at this time.”

“We are the epicenter of the virus now. Cases continue to rise, ICU beds are nearly at capacity, we are doing no contact tracing,” the first-term Democrat contended.

As far back as May, when the state parted ways with COVID-19 dashboard manager Rebekah Jones, Fried has said that just as the state’s response to coronavirus hasn’t been enough, the same holds true for the data.

“People can’t trust the information,” Fried said, attributing a  “dangerous pattern … of misinformation” to DeSantis, “a pattern of deception we’ve seen from the Governor over and over again.”

Republicans who were not, even as of the Legislative Session last year, necessarily opposed to Fried have now seen their opinions harden. Sen. Jeff Brandes said she was “politically posturing,” and others have rallied around the Governor.

For Fried, the Governor’s virus response offered a chance for a comeback after a Legislative Session in which she found herself having to defend the prerogatives of her office.

DeSantis allies in the House advanced a proposal to move the Office of Energy from her domain to the executive branch. While the Senate budget did not contemplate it, Fried spent much of the winter ensuring the Senate would hold the line.

She was successful then. But the nearly five months since Sine Die have not burnished her “state before party” formulation.

The 2021 Legislative Session likely will be lean times for FDACS, with lawmakers eager to curry favor with the chief executive of the majority party. But all of this seems like a prelude for 2022, where Fried will either be compelled to step up in weight class or defend the prerogatives of a diminished office against a Republican Party that would like nothing more than to de-platform her.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Sonja Fitch

    August 3, 2020 at 11:35 am

    The goptrump cult has to vehemently oppose any of the facts and suggested strategies to survive the trumpvirus pandemic! Thank you Nikki Fried! Duffus Desantis only does and says what the goptrump cult sociopath leader tells him to do! Floridians are dying every day because duffus Desantis is criminally negligent ! Vote Blue for you and me!

    • Ron Ogden

      August 3, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Weak, divisive, political, premature, poorly-thought out, self-serving and jealous: in other words, Democrapic.

  • Steve b

    August 3, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Does she realize that the Republicans are going to cripple her agency and make it difficult for her to the job she was elected to do.

    Obviously she sees the governor poll numbers are crashing so she is being a political opportunist. We already know as citizens how to best protect our selves.
    How about this. Gas scams still on the rise, school lunch program still deplorable, farmers need help, algae bloom will be back again consumer fraud still at an all time high. This is what she was elected to take care of . We have 1 governor and 2 years is a life time in politics. Just do the job you were elected to do!

  • Jon

    August 3, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Seems like a abuse of power. She is not the governor or the health department.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    August 4, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Let’s see…Fried is engaged to a married man who beats her and makes a fortune from cannabis which she tried to muscle her office into regulating and she’s now using that office to attack Gov. DeSantis in her run for Governor even as she offers her hand with a knife in it. Classic Democrat.

    • tjb

      August 5, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Charlotte, I prefer a man who cheats on his wives, launders money for the Russians, put children in cages, divides the country and lies about almost everything. PS—medical marijuana /cannabis is legal in FL. You should get a script for it.

Comments are closed.


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