WASHINGTON — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced a long-anticipated campaign for governor Tuesday, pitching herself in a video as a tested, yet “underestimated” public servant who is the best positioned Democrat to take on incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in one of 2022’s marquee electoral battles.
“This won’t be easy,” she said in a video, released after the required paperwork was officially filed with the Florida Board of Elections denoting an active campaign. “Those in power will do whatever harm it takes to stay there. But I’ve spent my whole life taking on the system. I’m unafraid. I’m tested. I’m ready.”
She leaned in on her track record as the sole Democrat to win statewide in 2018, a year that dashed Democratic hopes as they lost big statewide races for the governorship and the U.S. Senate by razor-thin margins. Fried is hoping to parlay that past electoral success into an argument for electability, both against her primary opponent — Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., who is also a former governor of the state — and later against DeSantis in next year’s general election.
In a memo circulated Monday night and obtained by NBC News, Fried's allies pointed out that her 2018 coalition was fueled by Jewish, working class, and retired voters and saw success in the Tampa Bay Area, including in bellwether counties that Democrats will need to win in the upcoming general.
The memo contends that electability is “Fried’s best tactic ... to convince Florida Democrats to give her their banner heading into the general election.”
Fried would make history as Florida’s first female Governor, if elected. But even Democrats admit, the road to victory is a steep one. The party took a shellacking in Florida in 2020, with Trump triumphing in his adopted home state over then-former Vice President Biden and Democrats losing several House seats in the state.
DeSantis himself remains on solid footing in recent statewide favorability polls, despite controversial decisions over the pandemic (like banning vaccine passports) and cracking down on vote by mail in recently passed election reform bills. A mainstay on Fox News, the race will garner national attention as DeSantis is also viewed as a one of the potential heirs to the Trump mantle and is widely talked about as a likely GOP presidential contender in 2024.