Gov. Ron DeSantis foresees a large loss for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in her battle against U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in the Democratic gubernatorial Primary on Tuesday, which he believes is due to her attempts to attack him rather than focus on her job.
“(Fried) had an opportunity as being the only Democrat elected statewide to exercise some leadership and get some things done and instead she’s used her time to basically try to smear me on a daily basis,” DeSantis told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. “That’s all she does.”
“She should’ve been able to win that going away and it seems like she’s going to come up not just short but significantly short and I think that’s probably why,” DeSantis added.
Fried defended her record as Agriculture Commissioner and lodged essentially the same critique at DeSantis — he’s too busy building a resume for a 2024 GOP Presidential Primary to deal with the state’s chronic issues of affordable housing and a collapsing property insurance market.
“Every single day I’ve done my job to make sure we’re holding him accountable,” Fried said. “There has been no Commissioner of Agriculture that has been more active on things to make sure that we are increasing our (agricultural) output here in the state of Florida, that we have a better balance on agriculture and water policies. We’ve kicked out the NRA from my office, we’ve legalized hemp.”
DeSantis also took issue with Fried’s questioning of his whereabouts last December, shortly after Christmas, when his public schedule was blank for two weeks. COVID-19 cases began to spike, leading Fried and other Democrats to question whether DeSantis was responding to the situation.
DeSantis took umbrage, and Fox News reported Dec. 31, 2021 that he accompanied his wife, Casey, during her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer two days earlier and was spending time with his family. His whereabouts, however, weren’t publicly known until the report came out.
“She attacked me for taking my wife to chemotherapy in December of 2021, which was a new low — as bad as politics can be,” DeSantis said. “So that’s the road she’s taken.”
For her part, Fried is confident of victory over Crist. If she does win, it would set up a fiery contest between her and DeSantis in the General Election. Fried, who is Jewish, compared DeSantis to Adolf Hitler earlier in the campaign but later retracted the comment after criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.
Fried accused DeSantis of scheduling the Cabinet meeting on the date of the Primary election to disrupt her campaign.
“He is scared of me winning tonight and so he’s doing everything in his power to keep me off the campaign trail today and keep me up here,” Fried told reporters after the meeting. “It’s unfortunate that this is only our second Cabinet meeting of the year and if I know this Governor it’s probably going to be our last one.”