Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried wrongly attributed Florida’s broken unemployment system to her Democratic primary opponent on Tuesday.
Fried, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner and only Democrat holding statewide office, tried to pin the system on U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist during an interview with WINK News. Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, was elected as Governor in 2006 as a Republican, and Fried has lumped him in with 20 years of GOP leadership in the state.
But she stepped beyond the facts when she pegged him for Florida’s widely criticized CONNECT system, which failed last year under a crush of claims early in the pandemic.
“The contract was first signed under Charlie Crist,” Fried told WINK.
But it wasn’t. As noted in an Inspector General report released just three months ago, a $77-million contract with Deloitte Consulting for the unemployment website and system was set up under former Gov. Rick Scott.
According to the report, directors for the Agency for Workforce Innovation and Department of Economic Opportunity identified a need to modernize the system during Crist’s one term as Governor. Invitations to negotiate were sent out in May 2010, in the last year of Crist’s term.
But AWI didn’t tap Deloitte until March 2011, months after Scott was elected. All of the work on the CONNECT system happened under Scott.
Crist’s campaign for Governor also noted that when WINK reached out for comment.
Crist announced in May he was challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis as a Democrat. He also ran against Scott in 2014 and narrowly lost.
Fried jumped into the race earlier this month. She has stressed she’s the most recent Democrat to win a statewide race, narrowly winning the Agriculture Commissioner race the same year DeSantis won his first term as Governor and Scott won a Senate seat.
Polls have shown Crist leading Fried by wide margins.