It’s finally official. State Senator Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, has seen enough of Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried’s flailing gubernatorial campaign to know it was time to throw her own hat into the ring. On Monday morning, the 54-year old Taddeo filed paperwork marking her official entry into the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. She joins Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in their separate challenges to unseat Republican Ron DeSantis next November.
The Miami Herald, in its glowing, 1,600 word puff piece about Taddeo’s entry into the race, at least rightly described the event as a “shake up” of the Democratic primary, though it remains to be seen how much of a factor Taddeo will prove to be. She’s woefully behind in fundraising, with perhaps a quarter of a million dollars compared to several million dollars apiece for Fried and Crist.
But given the perceived importance of identity politics in Democratic circles, it’s easy to think Taddeo’s entry makes sense for that reason alone. The Miami Herald devotes an inordinate amount of time reinforcing to readers that Taddeo is the only “non-white” candidate in the race, pointing out that 27 percent of Florida’s population is Hispanic.
While racial demographics might carry some weight in a Democratic primary, Florida’s Hispanic voters have shown in recent election cycles that they aren’t so easily shoehorned into a tidy little box, prepackaged and ready for delivery to whichever candidate possesses the same traits.
The real shake up that Annette Taddeo represents to the Democratic primary is that she’s a woman. Just like that, Nikki Fried isn’t so special anymore. Prior to Monday, Fried was running against two men, giving her a unique platform and an easy way to triangulate both her primary and general election opponents. And she hasn’t been shy about it, either. Her campaign messaging has focused heavily on the “pro-women” theme -around a dozen emails from her and her supporters have echoed the narrative – enabling her to beat a drum that neither Crist nor DeSantis could.
Now, though, she can no longer position herself as an outnumbered female challenging the male status-quo. She’s got to first convince Democrat voters she’s the best female for the job. Given all her ethical baggage, that might not be an easy task.