The circumstances of this column require full disclosure: I support Charlie Crist in the Governor’s race. There are many reasons for this, ranging from a sincere belief that the affable and experienced Crist is the candidate best suited to govern Florida in these contentious times to a visceral aversion to the dour, right-wing, beetle-browed pugnacity of Ron DeSantis.
Not the least of my reasons, however, is loyalty.
Malcolm Beard, the longtime Sheriff of Hillsborough County before he was a distinguished state Senator back in the day, once advised me never to give up an old friend to make a new friend.
And Charlie is my friend.
I have supported him in every race he has run since his election to the state Senate, and I see no reason to blot my copybook at this late date.
That said, I would be of the opinion that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried should drop out of the Governor’s race for the good of the order, even if I had never met Charlie. She is not going to win the Democratic nomination, and her continued candidacy will only deplete resources — hers and Charlie’s — available to be deployed in the General Election against DeSantis, who already has more money than God.
The problem is not that a contested Democratic primary will be fatally divisive. Nikki and Charlie are both center-left Democrats whose differences on the fundamental issues are not earthshaking. The problem is that it is a wasteful distraction in the long shot effort to unhorse DeSantis.
Nikki’s candidacy was a mistake from the get-go. She should have run for re-election and defended the only statewide elected office held by a Democrat. Even if defeated in a matchup with Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson, she would have drawn Republican attention and resources away from the Governor’s race, thus earning her the gratitude of her party and preserving her credibility for future endeavors.
If successful in a re-election bid, she would have been the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination for Governor in the next race with no incumbent in the statehouse. Wine and roses.
My take on Nikki’s candidacy is not new. As she was moving into the starting gate, I wrote a column where I said that 2022 was not her time. The odds were too long, her future too bright. She needed to be patient, I said.
And her head exploded. Not her time? Not her time? Sexism. No, by God, not run-of-the-mill sexism. Blatant misogyny, that’s what it was.
Well, events have proven that 2022 is not her time. Her campaign has been as error-prone as it has been uninspiring. There are three principal planks in her platform: she is a woman; she hates DeSantis, and she loves weed. And, if her anemic fundraising and consistently poor poll numbers are any indications, nobody cares. She is a dead woman walking.
But all is not lost. It is never too late to do the right thing. She can help her party and help herself with tomorrow in mind (“After all,” as Scarlett O’Hara famously said, “tomorrow is another day.”) by dropping out of the race sooner than later in a dignified and self-effacing fashion. Doing so would do more to further the effort to defeat DeSantis than her obstinate self-immolation will, and it would entrench her standing as a respected party leader in a party in which respected leaders with statewide heft are as rare as hens’ teeth.
And, in addition to being the right thing to do, it is the smart, self-serving thing to do. If 2022 is going to be a bloodbath for Democrats nationally and in the Sunshine State, as reading the runes would lead one to believe, it would be best to stand clear of the disaster and emerge from the wreckage unsullied by ignominious defeat.
To round out my cliché fest, discretion definitely would be the better part of valor for Nikki at this point.