‘Slap to the face of democracy’: Nikki Fried blasts Matt Caldwell, GOP use of third party candidates

Fried accused the GOP of 'dirty politics, lies, and fraud.'

Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried chastised Republicans Tuesday after one official admitted to using third-party candidates as spoilers in tight races.

In the email sent to Florida GOP state committee members, Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell credited “many” Republican victories to third-party candidates who have helped lure votes from Democratic candidates.

The strategy isn’t new, but it faces increased scrutiny now after the Florida GOP dominated the 2020 elections.

“It’s such a slap to the face of democracy that Republicans feel that the only way they can win is by playing dirty politics and by trying to confuse the electorate,” Fried told Florida Politics. “They can’t win on their record so they’re trying all these other tools.”

Notably, Caldwell ran against Fried for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018 and lost narrowly. In the email, he blamed the loss on the party’s political strategy and the “lack of any 3rd party candidate.”

Fried, who now ranks as the state’s top elected Democrat, described Caldwell’s take as unbecoming.

“It is really a disgraceful comment from somebody who wanted to be in the Florida Cabinet,” she said.

Perhaps no one in 2020 was more impactful than no party affiliated candidate Alex Rodriguez in SD 37. He pulled in just under 3% of the vote in the razor-thin South Florida race, enough to deliver the seat to the GOP.

Former SD 37 Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez alleged foul play in the contest. The Senator’s team accused Republicans of recruiting a spoiler NPA candidate — who shared a last name with the incumbent — as a way to siphon votes from the Democratic candidate.

The former Democratic Senator lost to Republican candidate Ileana Garcia by 28 votes.

Caldwell’s email comes amid rumors that he will challenge Joe Gruters for state party chair. He also serves as Lee County’s Republican Committeeman, making him eligible for the job.

Speaking to Florida Politics, Caldwell did not dismiss a run, but he did express some reservations.

Meanwhile, most prognosticators believe Fried will run for Governor in 2022.

She contended that candidates should be held accountable for their actions and called for more investigations into ethical complaints.

She lamented, however, that ethics hearings can take years to complete, far after “the damage has already been done” in most cases.

“They have historically used dirty politics, lies, and fraud on the electorate to win,” Fried alleged.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Sonja Fitch

    December 2, 2020 at 5:58 am

    Damn these goptrump RINOS! Republicans you look like Fing crooks and low life cheats! We need a good and decent Republican Party! As a life long Democrat I believe it is absolutely imperative for both parties to represent and come to common good for all.. Floridians and Americans! Voter “fraud” with the Rodrigues election is the most obvious recent success of these BS candidates running! Stop this bs in our elections!

  • Professor Larry Gillis

    December 2, 2020 at 7:26 am

    The Libertarian Party is solid choice for voters. We have a platform that insists on limited government, limited taxes, maximum personal freedom, and maximum personal responsibility. You will find no such insistence in the platforms of either Republican or Democratic Parties. In fact, one of those two parties ran a Presidential campaign this year with NO platform at all.

    (You do have to admire their honesty)

    BTW, I have never understood what “NPA” stands for. Maybe it stands for “No Platform Atall”.

    Vote Libertarian.

    Larry Gillis (Cape Coral)

  • Harold Finch

    December 2, 2020 at 9:53 am

    A Caldwell challenge to Gruters is ridiculous!! Matt is a DeSantis suck up and needs to understand there are many Republicans including myself who absolutely do not like him and if moderate Gwen Graham runs again for Governor will support her!!

  • E Baird

    December 2, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    I agree about Gwen Graham. Did notice similarity in names. Thank you for alerting us Fried to yet another one GOP dirty probably illegal or unethical tricks. D

  • Palmer Tom

    December 2, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    The real question is why Florida Democrats were flat-footed and slack-jawed until after the election. They could have taken the offensive and alerted voters to the Republican election fraud. This is not the first time this has occurred. Are they (the Democrats) really that lame?

  • MJ

    December 3, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Pot calling the kettle black? Where do you think Repubs learned it from? Want to bet she got her seat via Dominion?

  • Denley

    December 7, 2020 at 8:29 am

    No honor, Dems need to fight the same way as Republicans. Hope they can investigate into who made the other candidate run. They might not reverse the outcome but at least the truth will come out.

Comments are closed.


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