Nikki Fried, the top elected Democrat in Florida, is endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary.
“Joe is bringing together a diverse coalition that reflects America’s greatness," Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner, said in a statement Wednesday. "And Joe’s record of selfless service is exactly what we need to restore America’s moral compass, heart, and leadership at home and abroad. I’m excited and proud to stand with him today.”
Biden has won the support of most of Florida’s top Democrats heading into the state’s presidential primary on Tuesday, but Fried may be the biggest endorsement of them all. She is the de facto leader of her party as the only Democrat to hold a statewide office here. In a government run almost entirely by Republicans, she is one of the few bright spots for Democrats.
Fried, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and former lobbyist, is also the first woman in state history elected as the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. It’s an office traditionally occupied by conservative and well-connected Republicans with farming roots. She won it in 2018 by running a campaign almost entirely focused on gun safety and marijuana expansion. It’s a platform that endeared her to Florida progressives, who remain big supporters.
Fried has acknowledged that her endorsement “carries a lot of water" because of her stature in the party, and she has cautiously considered that power. “I carry that responsibility very seriously,” she told reporters at a state party gathering last year in Orlando. She attended the February Democratic debate in Las Vegas and has met or spoken with most of the major candidates, Politico recently reported.
Still, she stayed on the sidelines while the field remained large and competitive. Even after it winnowed down to just Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, she stayed neutral.
But now, with Biden in a commanding lead for the nomination after Tuesday’s primaries, Fried said the party and state must come together to focus on defeating President Donald Trump.
“The time for that unity is right now,” Fried said.
The only Democrat of Fried’s stature in Florida is Andrew Gillum, the party’s nominee for governor in 2018. Gillum has not endorsed in the race.