Few policy contrasts as Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried talk issues at forum

Crist vs Fried
The Democratic rivals found much to agree on — particularly about how divisive Gov. DeSantis is.

Hotly debated points of policy were hard to find Wednesday as the chief rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination — Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — met for a forum in West Palm Beach.

The word “agree” seemed to be the most oft-repeated word Wednesday as two tackled the state’s the high cost of housing, abortion rights under threat and teacher pay, even if they are competing against each other for the right to advance to the General Election.

The only contest between the two front-runners seemed to be over which candidate had the snappiest lines about Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Honestly, he thinks more about the White House than your house,” Crist said, referring to the Governor’s presidential ambitions as he addressed a question about housing costs. He dubbed him, “Wrong Ron.”

Fried took a question about farmworkers to discuss DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies.

“How dare Ron DeSantis, during the height of this pandemic, blame outbreaks of COVID on our migrant communities,” Fried said, recounting how her efforts to get protective gear to farmworker communities were rebuffed.

“Shame on him, … That’s cowardice, that’s bigotry, that’s racism. You deserve a Governor who is not going to tolerate these types of actions.”

The lines won cheers and applause from Wednesday’s crowd, mostly composed of Democratic Party faithful. But polls show that Floridians, in general, approve of the way DeSantis is running the state. Polls show DeSantis beating both candidates by substantial margins. Fundraising totals show both Democrats are far behind in the money race as well.

But both Democratic candidates agreed Wednesday they would expand Medicaid, as many states have done, under the Affordable Care Act. They would both fully fund a state trust fund for affordable housing and seek additional funding boosts for teachers.

Fried got in a few lines about how she’s been a Democrat since the age of 17. And has always stood for Democratic policies, particularly when it comes to a woman’s right to choose to go through a pregnancy.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got somebody who is in the Governor’s Office who has always stood with women and be mad at politicians who didn’t always do that,” Fried said. “And unfortunately, that’s where we are today.”

Crist said he’s been working as a Democrat even when he was the state’s Republican Governor, elected in 2006.

“I am the only candidate in this race who. as your Governor. has already actually vetoed an anti-abortion bill,” he said. “And if I have to, I’ll do it again. I was a hypothetical Republican then, for crying out loud. Imagine what I’ll do as a Democrat.”

Judy Lipton of Delray Beach was one of the few attendees not wearing a button for either candidate. The retired occupational therapist came to Wednesday’s debate to help her decide who’s getting her vote.

“I love them both,” she said, saying that the debate did not help her make up her mind. 

She was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the name that drew the loudest applause at the event: Val Demings.

Demings is running for Senate against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


  • Give us Taddeo!

    June 16, 2022 at 7:35 am

    They appear to be clones of one another about policy, so voters have to decide whom they mistrust the most. Hmm! Clones of one another on that issue, too.

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