In her first national TV hit since launching her campaign for Governor Tuesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sided with cruise lines in Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ fight over whether cruises can require passengers be vaccinated.
Fried, the lone Democrat elected statewide in Florida, formally kicked off her campaign Tuesday morning. In her first and only TV spot of the night, during The ReidOut with Joy Reid on MSNBC, Fried hit the Governor for doubling down on his vaccine passport ban when it comes to cruise lines.
The DeSantis administration is actively fighting a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order allowing cruises to set sail next month if 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. That’s the cruise industry’s ticket to reopening after the federal government forced them closed at the start of the pandemic.
“Ron is once again being very egotistical, bullish on this issue, when the cruise line industry just wants to make sure people are safe, get jobs back working on the cruise industry,” Fried said.
DeSantis last month signed a bill (SB 2006) cracking down on local pandemic rules and vaccine passports beginning July 1, the same day cruises are set to make their grand return. He also signed an executive order starting several of those prohibitions early.
Companies potentially face a $5,000 fine each time they enforce vaccination requirements on a customer.
In early April, Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans to require everyone on board its ships to be “100% vaccinated.” Other cruise lines followed suit. The following month, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio raised the possibility of moving operations to other states if the vaccine passport ban moves forward as planned.
Fried stood by cruises’ threatening to ship out of Florida if the cruise industry doesn’t get a carveout from the vaccine passport prohibition.
“They should look at leaving if the Governor’s not willing to work with them,” Fried said.
The cruise industry is a boon for the state’s tourism economy. In 2019, the cruise industry generated $7.7 billion in wages in Florida, according to Cruise Hive.
A resolution to the legal fight is expected any day now.
Fried also attacked Republicans’ other policies passed during the recent Legislative Session, including provisions regarding voting, constitutional amendments and violent protests.
“The people of our state are tired,” she said. “They’re tired of this type of leadership in our state that is not listening to the people. And when we take that message to the people to try something new, they’re going to buy it, because they know that the Republican party only wants status quo and only to protect the top 1% and the corporations of our state and not listening to the people.”
“When we get that message out, people will understand that Ron’s only using them to get to the 2024 election,” she added, saying people would rise up against a “corrupt system” that is “designed to keep them down.”
Fried is down in fundraising to the incumbent, and used the TV hit to make a national call for donations.
Fried is also down by over 30 points in one poll to primary opponent U.S. Rep. and former Gov. Charlie Crist. However, Crist doesn’t worry the Agriculture Commissioner.
“His time in statewide elected office has come and gone,” she said. “The people of our state want something new. They want something different and that is exactly what we’re going to give to them.”