It’s no secret in Tallahassee that Democrats can’t get anything done without a Republican ally in the legislature. But it appears Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s highest-ranking Democrat, may have found exactly that in the form of Florida Senate President Bill Galvano.
Galvano’s Republican-controlled senate has held up key gubernatorial appointments – including a kerfluffle over a pair of appointees to the South Florida Water management district, and still unconfirmed State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. Last week, one of Galvano’s committee chairmen also announced his refusal give a hearing to yet another gubernatorial appointment to the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).
The only objections to that appointment came from Fried during a cabinet vote, where she stood alone in opposition, and State Senator Audrey Gibson, who made it clear her beef with the governor’s choice in that instance was because the nominee was affiliated with The Federalist Society, a conservative legal association that Gibson blasted as a “right-wing club.”
For Fried, what she gets in any quid pro quo with Galvano is obvious: spiking DeSantis’s political appointees are major victories that she can tout in fundraising emails and in news coverage, recaps and reviews of the winners and losers of this year’s session.
Fried has steadily elevated her profile by hammering DeSantis and other cabinet members over their appointments and policy decisions. Meanwhile, she’s gotten a free pass from Florida’s legacy media reporters when it comes to her questionable ethics disclosure problems. Instead of asking her to explain her mysterious millionaire status and a $166,000 jump in her checking account balance, they fawn over her with questions about whether or not she’s jockeying to set herself up in a run for governor – as if the answer isn’t already obvious.
Being lauded by Florida’s legacy media is one thing. But why would a Republican like Galvano make it even easier for Fried by handing her a victory over DeSantis?
The answer isn’t immediately clear, but as Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Fried oversees a number of policy areas that Galvano may have an interest in, including medical marijuana regulation. Even if that’s not the case, at the very least, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Galvano is using Fried’s outspoken opposition as cover to generate leverage against DeSantis in potential negotiations related to Galvano’s own priorities.
Galvano and his Senate allies know that when session is over, DeSantis holds the ultimate trump card: the line-item veto, a precision-surgical / political instrument that can cut deeply into targeted budget line-items, ending the most carefully laid legislative plans with the stroke of his pen.
With less than three weeks before Sine Die, things will start to get interesting. Deals will be cut. Alliances formed, and the fate of legislation, appointees, programs, and hundreds of millions in state budget dollars hang in the balance. Keep a close eye on how things play out between Fried and DeSantis, with Galvano smack dab in the middle.