Without Gov. Ron DeSantis to guide and encourage them, Republican lawmakers in Florida won’t be so emboldened to push controversial laws, according to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running to unseat him.
“We take Ron DeSantis out of the conversation and out of the equation here, and the Republicans can go back to just being conservative, not this radicalization that we’ve seen here in the state of Florida,” she said.
“When you want to kill a snake, you cut off its head.”
Fried’s comments came near the end of a Friday interview with Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press in which she pitched herself as the only viable challenger to the incumbent Governor, whose popularity has soared across the country over the last year.
On Tuesday, Democratic voters will choose between her, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and several other Democratic candidates for Governor in a Primary Election. The winner will face DeSantis Nov. 8.
Fried noted she is the only Democrat to win a statewide election in Florida since former President Barack Obama won in 2012, and for the last three and a half years she’s “been in the trenches” fighting DeSantis’ agenda while advancing her own.
“I’ve been able to have an extremely high success rate in not only getting my budget through the Legislature (but) also legalizing hemp here in the state of Florida, so I know that there’s an opportunity to work across the aisle and to get things accomplished,” she said.
“But the Republicans know that I’m not necessarily going to just sit back and let them run the show. I’m going to use the power of the veto pen. I’m going to use the power of calling Special Sessions, and they’re going to figure out that it is a lot easier to work with me than to fight me every step along the way.”
Asked why Democrats should vote for her instead of Crist, who leads the race in funding, endorsements and most — but not all — polling results, Fried said much of that is misleading and reflects Crist’s nearly three decades in Florida politics.
“Charlie’s been doing this for 30 years as a Republican, as an independent and as a Democrat, so he has a lot of chips to cash in,” she said, adding that she’s been endorsed by the Democratic Black Caucus, Democratic Environmental Caucus and LGBTQ caucuses all over the state.
“The grassroots people who are actually out there every single day fighting on these issues, those people are with me.”
Speaking with Todd after Fried, Crist pushed back on the notion that his history of public service, including a stint as Florida’s Governor from 2007 to 2011, is a drawback for voters.
He also rebuffed Fried’s insistence that he opposes abortion because he says he’s “pro-life,” citing his decades-long history of voting against abortion restrictions and 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. It’s no surprise, he said, that progressives like Orlando state Rep. Anna Eskamani and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz have endorsed him.
“Why are they endorsing me? Because they trust me. They know what I’ve done. They know what my deeds are,” he said. “I think experience does matter. It absolutely does.”