Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide Democrat, has officially filed her campaign for Florida governor, according to the State Department’s website.
After months of speculation, occasionally dropping breadcrumbs on social media through ads and cryptic tweets, the high-profile Florida Democrat launched her campaign Tuesday in an attempt to ultimately unseat Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022. Fried is expected to make an official announcement later this afternoon.
Fried’s entry into the field sets up a future showdown in the Democratic primary between her and a former Florida Republican governor turned Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist. Crist declared his gubernatorial campaign last month.
Fried’s filing comes as no big surprise as she’s been eyeing a run for some time. Adding fuel to the speculative fire, Fried released a teaser last month that all but confirmed she would be running to take down DeSantis, who Fried has openly labeled persona non grata. The somewhat soft campaign launch earlier this month promised “#SomethingNew,” which led to her announcement.
The video focuses on Fried’s rise to political prominence, featuring news clips of outlets touting her as the “new face” of the Democratic Party and painting her as the “early frontrunner” in the race to unseat DeSantis. The ad also takes aim at the Governor, replaying Fried’s “greatest hits.”
While Crist is seen as the early Democratic favorite — given his political prowess and experience at the helm — Fried is a formidable opponent in her own right, quickly rising through the ranks to become the face of her party in Florida.
First elected as the agriculture commissioner in 2018, the marijuana advocate narrowly defeated Republican Matt Caldwell. It was the only statewide election in Florida to be won by a Democrat since 2012.
From the onset, Fried has used her role to increase her political stock and transition it into a full-fledged campaign. As the sole Democrat on the Florida Cabinet, Fried has turned her elected position into a pulpit for change, shaking up Florida politics by lambasting DeSantis’ conservative agenda and leadership through the pandemic on a daily basis. The move has paid dividends, molding Fried into the de facto leader of the Florida Democratic Party and making her a household name on a national stage that has enabled her to establish connections with officials and industry leaders, eventually culminating in today’s filing.
Despite the name recognition, Fried will have a tough hill to climb to become the first woman governor of Florida.
Crist, her only primary opponent at the moment, holds a month advantage raising money and reintroducing himself to Florida voters. Fried’s political committee, Florida Consumers First, which supported her statewide campaign in 2018, holds a cash advantage of about $1,483,947. While Crist’s committee, Friends of Charlie Crist, has only around half of that — the longtime politician recently established his committee and has been building his war chest while Fried only raised a little over $100,000 last month.
Likewise, DeSantis has been a fundraising maven, with his committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, raking in $14 million in April and more than $5 million in May.