Mac Stipanovich: Nothing will become Nikki Fried in her political life like the leaving of it
Democrats will be hard pressed to keep FDACS blue, but Fried holds out hope.

fried, nikki - looking down
Let it be said that nothing became Nikki Fried in her political life like the leaving of it.

Sen. Annette Taddeo dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, in effect setting up a runoff between front-runner Congressman Charlie Crist and still struggling Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Nikki Fried.

Taddeo saw an off-ramp that allowed her both to save face and offer a somewhat better prospect for success — a race for a Congressional seat held by a relatively weak Republican incumbent — and she wisely took it.

Fried, however, lacks options.

She has been running for Governor to no noticeable effect since the day she was sworn into office as Agriculture Commissioner three and a half years ago. At this point, she has very little face left to save and no viable place to hide, including a re-election bid. Defeat in the general election would be just as likely, if not more likely, against Senate President Wilton Simpson, the presumptive Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner, as it is against Crist. That being the case, she might as well be hanged as a lion running for Governor than hanged as a sheep trying to cling to an office in which she has shown no interest to date, or so the thinking seems to be among what passes for her brain trust.

So Fried presses on in the hyper-intense and often incompetent manner that has become her trademark. When she is not likening Gov. Ron DeSantis to Adolf Hitler, which even I, an invariable and intemperate critic of DeSantis, think is too much by several orders of magnitude, her campaign spokesperson is calling Rep. Anna Eskamani an “off-brand AOC” in an inexplicable and ill-advised attempt to demean Eskamani for her recent endorsement of Crist.

Inexplicable because AOC — progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York — is much more of a hero than a bête noire among those who might be expected to turn out to vote in a Democratic primary. And ill-advised because Eskamani is in her own right a celebrity in the Star Wars bar of metastasizing identity interests that is the left-wing of the Democratic Party in Florida, people whose votes Fried wants in the primary and could not do without in the General Election.

These blunders are not anomalous. They are emblematic. And their cumulative effect, when added to insipid messaging and anemic fundraising, is what one would expect: The handwriting is, and has been, on the wall for Fried.

The only remaining question is how she will exit the stage. There are two paths she can take: dignified restraint or scorched earth. Returning to the runoff analogy, there are historical precedents for both restraint and war to the knife here in Florida, and there is one gubernatorial election in my personal experience in which both paths were followed with strikingly different results that might be instructive today.

In 1986, the Republican gubernatorial primary ended in a runoff between Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez, who had 44% of the vote, and former Congressman Lou Frey, who had 25%. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Steve Pajcic led the field with 36% of the vote, followed by Attorney General Jim Smith with 31%.

The difference between being down 19 points on the one hand and five points on the other dictated the runoff strategies of the two campaigns. Frey believed dropping out would be a betrayal of his loyal supporters, so he soldiered on. But he knew he could not win the runoff and that Martinez might be able to win the general election if he was not damaged by pointless internecine warfare, so he avoided criticizing Martinez more than was absolutely necessary to keep up the appearances of an actual contest.

Martinez won the runoff 64% to 36%, a victory that gave him crucial momentum going into the general election, which he won in the first step toward what is today’s Republican hegemony in Florida. The fact is that Martinez could not have been elected without Frey’s restraint.

On the other hand, Smith went after Pajcic with hammer and tongs, savaging him at every turn. Pajcic reciprocated. It was a brutal brawl that Pajcic won by a little more than 1%. He limped into the general election bruised, bloodied, and doomed to defeat. The fact is that Martinez could not have been elected without Smith’s scorched earth campaign.

Fried is not 19 points behind Crist, but she is certainly more than five points back. What will she do? There is an increasing number of straws in the wind indicating that she is contemplating scorching the earth in a campaign she will not win. This would be a fatal blow to Democrat hopes of winning the race for Governor.

Crist may not win if Fried does a Frey, but he could. He cannot win if she does a Smith (and she might).

Let it not be so. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s line in Macbeth describing the dignity with which the Thane of Cawdor met death when he was executed for treason, let it be said that nothing became Nikki Fried in her political life like the leaving of it.

Mac Stipanovich

J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich is a veteran political strategist and former lobbyist who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Martinez.


  • Mr. Peabody

    June 13, 2022 at 6:06 am

    Stippy is his own personal Wayback Machine. Steve Pajcic??

  • Tom

    June 13, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Marc, you thinks to much.

    Chameleon Crist, nor N Fraud will win.
    Stop trying to create this fake perception that only chameleon can win. Neither one will do so

    DeSantis has the center right of the political spectrum. Independents support America’s Gov by 60% or more. Hispanics support DeSantis by 55% or greater. Republicans support him by 95% or greater vs either, asRepublicans will eagerly spat” Crist out with all his hypocrisy. Fraud had no chance, she will be rejected in a landslide.

    To suggest that Crist leads the way is a fallacy. Republicans are looking at supermajorities in legislature, landslides locally and plus 22 or 23 for congressional seats.

    America’s Governor is looking at landslide, 53% to 54% win. Which will catapult him into the lead nationally for POTUS.

    Nice try Marc, to no avail.

    • tom palmer

      June 13, 2022 at 8:14 am

      It’s Mac, not Marc, genius.

      • Tom

        June 13, 2022 at 8:53 am

        Yes Palmer I am, my pathetic loser you are. You never had a typo in your drab none interesting paper stories.

        Mac really needs to give it up, his shoe buffing for chameleon ain’t going anywhere. Chameleon will be spat out by Floridians, Repub. voters will run to the polls to defeat this hypocrite. Fraud is a hysterical wench.

        You fools lose by 53% of 54%, depending on candidate.

        Palmer, you hide like a child. Gov vetoed Lake O., along with unprecedented budget expenditures.
        Environmental Gov DeSantis looking at a 67 county win. Along with the just veto of the ridiculous Tampa spring training stadium. A Gov for the peeps, not Mac and his insiders.

        If you were honest you’d admit, support his efforts like Florida’s Conservation foundation does. Since you profess such fondness for environment. Rising tide for all, except for you and Mac the knife!

      • Tom

        June 13, 2022 at 8:55 am

        Commentary stands, honest typo. Analysis on key. Mac shoe shining for chameleon is touching.
        I know you never had any as third rate journalist Palmer. LMAO

        • Tom

          June 13, 2022 at 1:27 pm

          Palmer, still awaiting your acknowledgement of Govs great veto on Lake O His line item commitment sets the highest bar to protect actuaries, waterways.
          Florida conservation applauded America’s Gov., as I am sure you will.

        • Tom

          June 13, 2022 at 3:47 pm

          Palmer, still awaiting your acknowledgement of Govs great veto on Lake O

          His line item commitment sets the highest bar to protect actuaries, waterways and Lake.

          Florida Conversation Fdn applauds America’s Gov for his environmental commitment. Best Gov on environment in 40 yrs.

  • Domino

    June 13, 2022 at 8:24 am

    As long as Kevin Cate gets paid, what difference does it make?

Comments are closed.


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