Good or bad, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has been a hot topic in Florida’s political scene as of late.
The lone Democrat in Florida’s cabinet has been the focal point for many Republicans around the state, as the marijuana advocate continues to prove that she’s more concerned with her image than her record helping Floridians.
Fried has faced a growing amount of criticism as of late, in part for her starring role in “Stickergate.” Last year, Fried drew the ire of many Republicans when she plastered her face on stickers applied to gas pumps in what Republicans say was a move to use taxpayer dollars to promote herself and not the office she holds. The move caused GOP leaders to pass a budget implementing bill (SB 2502) last session to limit stickers affixed to gas pumps to only “a combination of lettering, numbering, words, or the department logo.
Fried’s department, however, failed to remove the stickers in time, prompting House Republicans to put forth a budget proposal this legislative session that would’ve withheld $19.7 million from Agriculture Department programs and into reserves if she failed to put together a plan to remove the stickers.
This week, “Stickergate” reached its climax, with some new, legally compliant stickers starting to replace the ones that featured Fried.
If that’s not enough, Fried still has looming questions on her net worth and increase of cash in her checking account that somehow ballooned by more than $166,000 while she was campaigning in 2018, and only earned half that from her lobbying business. The stories were first reported by The Capitolist after Fried made numerous errors and omissions on her legally required annual financial disclosure.
Fried has consistently refused to explain the source of the cash, though numerous attempts have been made to her communications staff at the Department of Agriculture and her political committee.
This week, while the governor’s cabinet and lawmakers are focused on the 2020 legislative session, Fried is nowhere to be found. Instead of addressing issues pertinent to her financial flubs, Fried is using this time to flex her political muscle, and do what she claimed her stickers did not — increase her political exposure.
On Tuesday, Fried announced on social media that she would be attending tonight’s Democratic debate.
“Tomorrow I head to Nevada for the ninth presidential debate. And while debates are great, voting is what is important,” Fried said in a video posted on Twitter.
I’m heading to the Democratic debate in Nevada tomorrow.
And debates are great. But what’s even better? Voting!
TODAY is the deadline to register to vote in the March 17 primary election.
— Nikki Fried (@nikkifried) February 18, 2020
The debate, which will be the precursor to Saturday’s Nevada Caucus, will be hosted in Las Vegas and will feature many of the Democratic hopefuls vying to face President Donald Trump in November.The candidates expected to take part are former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But that’s not all…
For the first time, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will participate in the debate, qualifying after surging to second place in the polls behind Sanders.
Bloomberg’s appearance in Wednesday’s debate, alongside Fried’s subsequent trip, is telling, and could lead to a potential endorsement from the embattled commissioner. It’s no secret that Fried had dinner with the billionaire, and everyone knows Bloomberg’s influence in the Sunshine State.
The jury is still out on who Fried plans to endorse, but Florida Republicans are doubling-down on their attacks against against Bloomberg and Fried.
On Tuesday, the Florida GOP called on Fried to denounce Bloomberg after his past remarks about farmers surfaced earlier this week. The comments are the newest on a list of impolitic and insensitive remarks made in the past by the multi-billionaire.
“I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, put a seed in, put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn,” Bloomberg said in the video.
Bloomberg wouldn’t last 3 seconds as a farmer… but like his comments on minorities, you can tell he really hates regular hardworking Americans.
He will never fight for them because he couldn’t care less about them. https://t.co/03CmskF5Vn
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 17, 2020
The comments didn’t sit well with Senator Joe Gruters, who doubles as Chairman of the Republican Party. Following Bloomberg’s “know-it-all” remarks, the Sarasota Senator called on Fried to condemn them.
“Florida growers and ranchers supply the U.S. and the world with fresh produce. In fact, the Sunshine State ranks second in the nation for vegetable production and is responsible for 63 percent of the nation’s total citrus production,” Gruters said. “The list goes on and on, which is why we are shocked and dismayed that Commissioner Nikki Fried has not condemned Bloomberg’s remarks.
Fried has yet to call out Bloomberg’s comments.