Nikki Fried joins the race for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Her late entry comes just 12 days before Florida Democrats will choose their next leader

By: - February 13, 2023 9:59 am

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried speaks at a press conference on Oct. 10, 2022. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has officially entered the race to lead the Florida Democratic Party.

“As Florida Democrats, we either fight like hell against right-win extremism or accept irrelevance and oppression,” Fried tweeted Monday morning. “I choose to fight. That’s why I’m running to be the Chair of the @FlaDems. LFG.”

The election for Florida Democratic Party chair will take place in Orlando on February 25.

Fried, the last statewide elected Democrat in the state, initially had said that she wasn’t interested in running for the position. But boosted by some local party officials who said that they were uninspired by the other announced candidates, Fried indicated over the past week that she was considering putting her name back into consideration.

“Florida Democrats are at a crossroads,” Fried texted to the Phoenix on Friday. “We must unite and get this right today, not tomorrow, not next year. We have lost the faith of too. Many Floridians but I have complete confidence that we can build this trust again. It will take hard work and it won’t happen overnight, but failure is not an option.”

In a statement issued this morning, Fried wrote that, “I will commit to commit to rebuilding our Party from the ground up. Our work will be in lockstep with County Democratic Parties, our Clubs and Caucuses, Democratic elected leaders, community organizations and supporters. As Chair of the Florida Democrats, we will rededicate ourselves to voter registration, training and growing our progressive coalitions. I am determined to rebuild the trust of national committees and I will dedicate the full weight of the Party to quality candidate recruitment and to reforming our antiquated weighted vote system and bylaws which too often exclude rather than include.”

Last week more than two dozen members of the Florida Democratic Executive Committee who have a vote in the February election to decide a new chair called on Fried to officially enter the race, writing that she was the “obvious best choice for Party Chair.”

Democratic National Committee member Alan Clendenin from Tampa was one of those who signed the letter. He says he reached out to Fried shortly after Diaz resigned last month and called on her to consider entering the race.

“As I looked around the state, and what the needs are around the state, I felt that she was probably the best figure right now here in Florida,” says Clendenin who ran unsuccessfully for the state party chair position a decade ago.

But there are other Democrats who aren’t onboard.

“I’m not sure what the future holds on February 25,” says Leon County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ryan Ray. “But I know this for certain – the Republican-friendly voices from the lobbyist and consultant class who get rich off losing cycle after cycle should not be taken seriously by FDP Chair’s race voters.”

There are four other candidates in the race for FDP Chair, with former Miami-Dade County state Sen. Annette Taddeo having the most big-name Democrats supporting her candidacy. When it was reported that Fried was considering entering the race last week, Taddeo tweeted that, “Unfortunately more often than not, our party leader is picked through backroom deals. We cannot expect new outcomes from the same old tactics.”

Taddeo told the Phoenix Monday that what she was referring to some of the names that were listed as calling on Fried to run for Party Chair, saying, “These are the people who have for years controlled the Florida Democratic Party through backroom deals, and that’s completely unacceptable and that’s what I’ve been trying to change all these years.”

Rick Hoye, Chairman of the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee, Alex Berrios, a West Palm Beach political consultant and Carolina Ampudia, the chair of the legislative committee of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida are also in the contest to succeed former Party Chair Manny Diaz, who announced he was resigning from serving as chair of the Florida Democratic Party last month.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.