TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has been very critical of Governor Ron DeSantis, and she’ll have even more of a chance to question his leadership as she tries to unseat him.
Ione Townsend, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Hillsborough County, says Fried’s criticism is well justified.
“I think what she’s doing is alerting the public as to what’s going on. If anyone is paying attention after 24 years of Republican control we have had a race to the bottom. We are in the neighborhood of Mississippi now in terms of unemployment benefits, in terms of access to healthcare, per-pupil spending in education," Townsend said.
But Governor DeSantis' most recent approval ratings are favorable.
Shawn Foster is very active in Pasco County’s Republican landscape and says Desantis’ COVID response was a model for the nation.
“Governor Desantis has continued to take the lead. We have a low unemployment rate here. This economy is rebounding faster than almost any other state in the nation. And again I think we are going to look back at his track record and how he got us through this and that’s why they keep mentioning him for President in 2024," said Foster.
As of now, Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist are the two Democrats who will run in Florida’s primary.
“I see this race as unfolding as a generational battle the older and younger democrats for the primary. And that’s why it’s so critical for Fried, whose strongest support is among younger democrats. The challenge for her to mobilize them to the level that Andrew Gillum did. One of the reasons he was successful in the primary, he was able to turn out the younger demographic," said ABC Action News political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus.
Fried is known as a progressive and the only Democrat to win statewide office in 2018.
According to Florida Consumers First, which backs Fried, they have $1.4 million. Almost double of what friends of Charlie Crist has.
“I think as Democrats we are very fortunate once Nikki gets in two have very well qualified candidates to run for Governor," said Townsend.
State Senator Annette Taddeo is another possible contender for the Democrats.
But no matter who runs, beating the incumbent appears to be a long shot.
“I just don’t see where he’s (Desantis) vulnerable. Maybe they see a different poll. You see where Charlie leads in the polls right off the bat even with women her (Fried) age. But if I’m Ron Desantis, I’m climbing right now and I don’t see any type of way for him to come flat. But I think he’ll continue to climb," said Foster.
Fried is not letting up on her criticism of the Governor.
On Tuesday on Twitter, she called his ban on trans-female kids playing in certain women’s sports “heartless” and especially cruel to sign it on the first day of Pride month.