TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s only Democrat serving statewide office is counting down the days until her term’s conclusion.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will leave her post at the end of the year after failing to become the party’s nominee for governor last week.
In the final days of the primary, Fried’s campaign insisted she had momentum, that women and young voters would turn out and topple Charlie Crist.
That didn’t happen.
After weeks of questioning whether Democrats could trust Crist on issues like abortion, last Tuesday’s results weren’t even close. Fried lost by about 25 points despite a perceived swell of support.
"We knew going into this that we were running against someone who had been doing this for 30 years," Fried said.
After days of reflection, Fried said defeat was a combo of problems, including poor initial fundraising which led to weak name recognition.
"People didn’t know us well enough. It was safer for them with a named commodity and entity than to try something new," Fried said. "We talked to a lot of voters at the end that turned in their vote-by-mail ballots that were like, oh, we wish that we had seen you three weeks ago."
Democrats have since done the usual unity rally. Fried has endorsed Crist and said she’ll keep campaigning for him online and in person until November.
Fried is urging her supporters to pivot as well, but warns trust is still an issue.
“We are making those phone calls. I am encouraging everybody to make sure that we’re going out and voting for Charlie and supporting the Democratic ticket and Democratic party," Fried said. "There is going to be some work to be done. I can only go so far. Charlie is going to have to go the other side."
While 2022 is Fried’s initial focus post-primary, she’s also looking beyond it.
The agriculture commissioner wants to get abortion protections on the Florida ballot in 2024 and is considering another run for office.
"I’m not going to run unless I find my passion in something. Not going to run just to run. That’s not me. I’m going to find where I can make the greatest impact," Fried said. "I will continue to look at what opportunities are out there and where my voice is necessary."
Fried tells us she has no regrets as she prepares to leave her position, and hopes her failed run for governor is still a win of sorts.
"There is a tremendously large glass ceiling for women in politics. That still exists," Fried said. "I think that we made a little bit of a crack in that ceiling and we’re going to keep going and make sure that we actually break it down."
Fried has served as Florida's agriculture commissioner since 2018. The position is now up for grabs between Democrat Naomi Esther Blemur and Republican Wilton Simpson.