Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — a Democratic gubernatorial contender — wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to take the new COVID-19 omicron variant seriously.
She also, however, is willing to break ranks with President Joe Biden. The Democratic President this week said lockdown mitigation measures are off the table “for now.”
“I take my cues from the people of our state and what the people of our state want,” Fried told Florida Politics.
Fried’s suggested willingness to depart from Biden administration policy mark the gubernatorial hopeful’s latest approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An outspoken critic of DeSantis, Fried has garnered national media attention by chiding the Republican Governor’s cavalier-like approach to the pandemic.
She encouraged DeSantis to monitor case and hospitalization numbers moving forward. She also noted much is still unknown about the new variant. Health leaders expect to know more in the coming weeks.
“If we start seeing increasing numbers, it’s our job to be honest with the people of our state about what’s happening and how to make sure that they’re protecting themselves,” Fried added.
Fried has previously criticized DeSantis for misrepresenting COVID-19 case numbers in Florida. In October, she hosted a series of COVID-19 news conferences to fill an alleged void of virus-related information. Florida halted daily COVID-19 reports in July under DeSantis’ leadership.
“The job of an elected official is to be honest and transparent,” Fried said. “Always.”
Fried’s willingness to go rogue comes after an August Quinnipiac poll showed most Florida voters disapprove of Biden’s performance.
More recently, the Biden administration delisted a Colombian rebel group — dubbed FARC — from a terrorist organization list. The move reportedly angered Colombian American voters, a key demographic.
Speaking to press, Fried shrugged off questions about her allegiance to Biden. Despite a “great relationship with the White House,” Fried said Floridians come first.
“I am an independently elected individual,” Fried said. “My sole responsibility is taking care of the State of Florida. I have a great relationship with the White House and so when there’s issues, I can have a communication and relationship with them to work through them and find solutions — but my priority is always to people of our state.”
Fried’s Democratic Primary path is all but paved. Before facing DeSantis, she must overcome former Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist is now a Democratic Congressman. She also faces Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo, Crist’s former running mate.