Members of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried’s campaign are criticizing Democratic Primary opponent Charlie Crist for going negative. Fried Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name characterized a tonal shift as a sign “Charlie Crist realized he will likely lose this primary and so he’s gone negative.”
“He’s gone from ‘I don’t respond to her’ — not even mentioning Nikki’s name on May 20th, to using a speech at the LGBTQ+ Caucus yesterday, July 23rd, two months later, to start his negative track,” Van Name wrote.
Gone unmentioned is that Fried has openly criticized Crist’s record for months. But the messaging attempts to suggest that Crist in recent days is reacting to a shifting momentum in the Democratic Primary.
Van Name pointed to Crist’s remarks at the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus this weekend in Fort Lauderdale. Crist attacked Fried for her past support of former Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz, who Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed as Education Commissioner.
“He’s the guy now implementing the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Act,” Crist said told the caucus, according to Bay News 9.
The reference is to a controversial new law, officially entitled “Parental Rights in Education,” which limits teacher instruction on the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus held a vote on whether to endorse in the race and Fried came a vote shy of winning. The vote went 25-13 in Fried’s favor, but bylaws require a two-thirds vote to issue an official endorsement.
Van Name’s memo to supporters touts Fried winning 65.8% of the vote in the straw poll, and said that was a “trend happening in every grassroots caucus vote.” Fried notably picked up the endorsement earlier this year from the Democratic Black Caucus at a May event.
Van Name took some umbrage at a statement Crist released asserting that Fried, a South Florida County native, “attempted to pack the room with supporters.”
“Angry Charlie is losing Charlie,” Van Name wrote.
Crist has consistently led in fundraising and independent polls, but Fried earned a lot of good press after a speech at the Leadership Blue gala in Tampa Bay. Fried stepped up attacks on Crist’s own conservative voting history — before being elected as a Democratic Congressman he served one term as a Republican Governor — since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Van Name suggests the change in tone of the race could prove well timed. Fried just made a buy for her first television ads.
“She’s on message and he’s off the rails,” Van Name said. “Let me be very clear, Charlie going negative won’t distract us. It emboldens us. If we communicate at all, we win.”
Crist went on air sooner and he has more money. But Van Name expressd confidence in Fried’s momentum.