Florida’s top elected Democrat isn’t running for governor in 2022. At least not for now.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told the Miami Herald Wednesday that for the moment, she is “fully focused” on her current job. And while she has made her criticism of the current administration widely known, she says she remains focused on issues around COVID-19.
She did, however, allude to an “electoral reckoning” she thinks Gov. Ron DeSantis will face as a result of his response to the pandemic.
“I do think we deserve more from our governor,” she wrote in a statement to the Herald Wednesday. “There will be an electoral reckoning for his choices.”
Fried was contacted by the Herald after politics blog “Florida Politics” ran a headline Wednesday saying “Nikki Fried ‘looking into’ 2022 run for Florida governor.” Fried did not confirm rumors of any higher aspiration. The blog did not quote the commissioner saying she was “looking into” a gubernatorial campaign.
The blog was based on an interview she did Wednesday with NewsRadio 610 WIOD in Miami, in which she spoke about her new public information campaign about COVID-19 that competes with a similar campaign from DeSantis’ office.
“I’m hearing from throughout the entire state that people are worried about the current leadership,” Fried told the host. “When there is no leadership, I have to stand up.”
Fried has been critical of the DeSantis administration on a variety of topics since the start of the pandemic, from his handling of unemployment insurance to his lack of a statewide mask order. They clashed over data transparency when Department of Health data specialist Rebekah Jones was fired after accusing her supervisors of trying to hide COVID-19 information. She pushed back when DeSantis left her off his Re-Open Task Force that came up with recommendations related to the coronavirus.
And when the governor called off the planned August 11 Cabinet meeting, Fried sent a press release in response. The governor has held just one Cabinet meeting since February, she noted.
“So, it’s safe for schools to reopen, but it’s NOT safe to hold a Cabinet meeting? Makes sense.”
The rumors swirling around a potential Fried campaign are not new. Democrats like Fried and former U.S. Rep. (and onetime gubernatorial candidate) Gwen Graham have stepped out as critics of DeSantis, whose approval rating has slipped under the scrutiny of his coronavirus response, the Tampa Bay Times reported last month.
But for now, her disapproval of DeSantis is just that, disapproval.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of the governor’s lack of leadership during this pandemic,” she told the Herald.