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Nikki Fried, only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, enters race for governor

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday announced a run for governor, setting up a primary between the only statewide-elected Democrat in Florida and Rep. Charlie Crist.

Fried made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter where she attacks the Sunshine State’s “rigged system” and pledges to take on a range of issues that include health care, education and marijuana legalization.

“We can build a state that gives power back to you,” Fried said in the video. “Listen, this won’t be easy. Those in power will do whatever harm it takes to stay there. But I have spent my whole life taking on the system. I am unafraid, I’m tested, I am ready.”

She added: “I’m Nikki Fried, an underestimated Floridian like you. And I’m asking you to break the system by electing me the next governor of the state of Florida.”

Fried’s plan to run for governor has long been an open secret in the state and the commissioner herself teased the plan in May with a video touting a June 1 announcement and attacking incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as an “authoritarian dictator.”

She does not mention DeSantis by name in her announcement video.

The primary between Fried and Crist could be contentious, setting up a fight between competing visions for the Democratic Party.

Fried is a lifelong Floridian. She was born and raised in Miami and attended the University of Florida, where she received her law degree. She has spent much of her career as a public defender and defense attorney, including a stint with the Alachua County Public Defender’s Office. She narrowly won her current position in 2018, becoming the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Florida, which has moved right in recent years.

Unlike the state he seeks to represent, Crist has moved to the left over the last decade. Crist, then a Republican, served as governor from 2007 to 2011 but left the party after it declined to back his 2010 Senate campaign. Running as an independent, Crist lost that election and later officially became a Democrat when be endorsed then-President Barack Obama in 2012. He mounted a failed gubernatorial campaign in 2014 as a Democrat and was elected to Congress in 2016. He announced a gubernatorial run in May.

Fried is expected to center her campaign on the ability to win in Florida — routinely arguing that because she is the only Democrat to win statewide, she is the best positioned to defeat DeSantis, who has seen his profile rise in recent years.

Democrats are eager to take on DeSantis, who has tied himself to former President Donald Trump and is said to be considering a presidential run in 2024.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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