Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried give enviro issues cursory treatment at Dem debate
Image via Wes Wolfe.

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Crist said it’s his belief the state’s economy and its environment are inextricably linked.

It’s not unusual for environmental concerns to get lost on the debate stage, even among Democrats. There wasn’t much time given to them during the gubernatorial Primary debate in Miami between Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried

The debate turned to environmental policy about halfway through, with a question from NBC 6 anchor Jackie Nespral.

“In South Florida, we often see street flooding on any given day,” Nespral said. “On any given dry day, for that matter. Also, the Everglades are considered a state treasure and funding for restoration efforts has actually increased in recent years. What programs or funding can you put in place to protect our state’s environment as we look to the future?”

Fried answered first, saying she has a record of accomplishments as Commissioner that point to how she would be as Governor.

“As our Commissioner of Agriculture, we have spent the last three and a half years fighting for our environment, making sure that we are talking about issues that were going to matter. Clean water,” Fried said.

“We made sure that we came in and did a better balance on the environment and agriculture, making sure that we are pushing forth legislation and initiatives to create a sustainable environment. And so as your Governor, I’ll be able to take it one step further. That’s why the Democratic Environmental Caucus endorsed me, because as Commissioner, we put together a 72-page plan, never been done before in the state of Florida, outlining exactly what we would do.”

They also sent a “30-page plan with 40 different ideas” on creating a more sustainable environment to the White House following the election of President Joe Biden, a plan which included ideas for solar energy infrastructure.

Crist said it’s his belief the state’s economy and its environment are inextricably linked, and noted his climate change summit when he was Governor.

“We are the state most susceptible to rising sea levels,” Crist said. “I tried, when I was Governor the first time, to buy as much sugar land as I could to restore the natural flow south of the water through the Everglades, through Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay. That’s what we need to do.

“And that’s what I’ll reignite when I get back to be Governor again. The only reason we couldn’t finish it was the Great Recession, so the funds cut back. But instead, I used them to save teachers’ jobs. It’s having common sense and doing the right thing.”

Fried hit back, accusing Crist of showing support for offshore drilling by inappropriate clapping.

“But unfortunately, when Charlie was auditioning to be the Vice President under John McCain, he stood behind John McCain when John McCain was talking about oil drilling,” Fried said. “Charlie was there, clapping and agreeing. So the policies that Charlie gets behind is only for one purpose. It’s only to enhance his political career, not the people of our state, and certainly not our environment.”

Crist wasn’t able to respond before Nespral pivoted to a question about what the candidates would do within the Democratic Party if they lose to Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall.

Sierra Club Florida, which endorsed Crist, backed him up on social media.

@CharlieCrist is running for @Governor because he cares about Florida and has fought to protect our coastal economy and Floridians’ quality of life,” Sierra Club Florida tweeted. “As a Congressman he helped secure a ban on offshore drilling so that we can #StopTheDrill and have a pathway to #CleanEnergy.

@CharlieCrist like his colleagues and fellow elected officials @JaneCastor and @RepDWStweets have worked tirelessly to #StopTheDrill to make sure that we never have another #DeepWaterHorizon. The #TimeToTransitionIsNow.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


  • tom palmer

    July 21, 2022 at 8:54 pm

    It is too bad that better environmental questions were not asked, but a lot of the media is clueless on this issue, too.

  • Joe Corsin

    July 21, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    Vote RED for wealth and income inequality the likes of which the world has never seen
    Vote RED for overheating the economy, doing nothing about it, and blaming the Democrats for the fallout
    Vote RED for Afghanistan weapons Bazaar here in the USA

  • Al

    July 23, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Unfortunate the envoro Is saying kiss my a

Comments are closed.


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