The 22-story Florida Capitol towers over the old Historic Capitol. Credit: Diane Rado
The two major gubernatorial primary candidates Wednesday evening did little to move the needle on some of the most significant political issues related to their platforms, from the economy, education reforms and assault weapon bans.
But both Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, had some differences.
One of them was that Crist didn’t reference Fried’s name at any time in the half-hour conversation with a panel of top journalists in Florida. That likely means that he has moved on to campaign against the Republican opponent, Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Fried did mention Crist in her conversation with the panel, particularly about abortion rights. Fried said that Crist had earlier been considered “pro-life.” She also said Crist, when he was a Republican governor, appointed “the most extremist anti-choice Supreme Court justices,” at that time.
But Crist, from Pinellas County, said he vetoed legislation that would have required women to pay for an ultrasound before undergoing the procedure and added that he enjoys a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
“The real question here is, why does Gov. DeSantis believe in restricting a woman’s right to make a decision about her own health and her own body?” he said.
Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban includes no exceptions for rape or incest. “Who does that?” Crist wondered. “Apparently, our current governor does that.”
Fried also mentioned, as a difference, that Florida should legalize cannabis.
“Right now, so many people still in our state are in the jails and in our prison system for cannabis possession or related, you know, arrests. That way, if you take people out of the jail system, you’re lowering your cost for your public defenders, needing your state attorneys, your courthouses, your jails.”
In addition to her Agriculture Commissioner and statewide elected Cabinet role, Fried is an attorney, a former public offender and a former lobbyist on cannabis issues.
Crist has been a Republican governor, Attorney General, and Education Commissioner over the years before he became a Democrat and is currently in Congress.
“I’m the best prepared to do it. I’ve done it. I’ve been your governor. I’ve been your attorney general. I’ve been your commissioner of education,” Crist said.
“I don’t need any on-the-job training. I can do it from Day One,” Crist said on his panal conversation. “And, on Day One, I’ll sign an executive order to make sure that women in Florida has a right to choose when it comes to their health.”
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