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Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried

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Joe Henderson: Nikki Fried’s SMART program is an answer to Gov. DeSantis

Nikki Fried 2022?

Give credit to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. In rolling out her plan Monday to fight COVID-19, she made it easy to read between the lines.

Fried’s SMART program, announced at a news conference, is nothing we haven’t heard before.

Social distance – got it.

Mask – sure.

Avoid crowds – obviously.

Remember to wash your hands – they had to work a little harder there to find a phrase that started with R.

Throw away disposable items – that also took some serious word gymnastics.

It’s not that any of these suggestions are bad, not at all. It’s just that we’ve heard the same things for months, including last week when Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out his One Goal, One Florida campaign.

So, where’s the beef?

I think we know.

Fried has been at odds with DeSantis throughout the virus crisis, criticizing him for just about everything while the virus galloped across the width and breadth of Florida.

Her announcement was a “Hey Governor, I’m still here” missile designed to make DeSantis mutter in his cornflakes.

As the only Democrat in the Cabinet, Fried has openly complained that DeSantis routinely kept her out of the loop on plans to deal with the pandemic.

So, she created her own loop, essentially poking him in the eye with a stick.

In a tweet announcing the rollout, Fried’s first paragraph spoke volumes. It said, “We’ve got to be all in this together to beat #COVID19.”

Keyword: Together.

Message received.

Obviously, Fried and DeSantis haven’t been together.

She even went on MSNBC last month to hammer DeSantis on his refusal to mandate mask-wearing in Florida.

“The Governor basically said mission accomplished,” Fried said then. “He went on a national tour across the entire country on national networks saying that this is behind us.

“He reopened our state without following data points, with no enforcement and he spent the entire couple weeks after reopening blaming young people, blaming Hispanic workers, blaming nursing homes, blaming the media, instead of focusing on what needed to be done here.”

We also eventually may look back and remember this as the de facto announcement that Fried was running to unseat DeSantis two years from now. Barring something I can’t imagine, Fried will seek to break the Democratic losing streak in Governor’s races.

It dates to the last century if you’re keeping score.

She will be formidable, but let’s get through this election first, shall we?

Better yet, let’s get through the pandemic.

We can improve the odds by following DeSantis’ “One Goal, One Florida.”

Or, we can follow Fried’s “SMART” idea.

Why not do both? They want the same things.

Wash your hands.

Wear a damn mask.

Stay safe.

No need to read through the lines for any of that.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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