The Phoenix Flyer

When public business becomes a campaign stop: DeSantis rips Fried

By: - June 2, 2021 3:23 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared with Nikki Fried (from left), Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, during the 2018 Legislature’s organizational session. Credit: Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

Gov. Ron DeSantis injected sharp campaign rhetoric into a public bill-signing for the new state budget on Wednesday, unloading on Democrat Nikki Fried one day after she launched her campaign to unseat him.

It happened when a reporter asked the governor about another topic: The entry into Fried’s party primary — she’s Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the only Democrat holding statewide office.

“Nikki Fried has done nothing in office. She does nothing. All she does is emote on social media, virtue signal to small-dollar donors in California and New York,” DeSantis said. (Florida Division of Elections campaign records show that DeSantis has gotten at least some small-dollar donations from both California and New York.)

DeSantis referred to a controversy that erupted early in Fried’s term, when inspection stickers bearing her likeness appeared on gas pumps throughout the state. Although it’s hardly uncommon for office-holders to post their pictures in public facilities, legislative Republicans were offended enough to threaten to remove oversight of Florida’s Office of Energy from her purview. They didn’t go through with it.

“She put her face — spent millions of dollars to put her face on every gas pump across this state purely to boost her own image at your expense as a taxpayer,” the governor said.

Fried has rumbled with DeSantis frequently over his management of matters including COVID response.

“She’s a lock-down lobbyist. She would have had our kids locked out of school the whole year. She would have had this business shuttered for the whole year,” DeSantis said.

He referred this time to The Garlic restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, where the governor had traveled to sign the $101.5 billion state budget.

“They would be out of business if Fried were governor,” DeSantis said.

“She’s opposed us at every turn. All the good stuff we’ve been able to accomplish for Florida, she opposes it,” he continued.

“I’ve done more, I think, in my first week as governor as she has done in four years as agriculture commissioner.” DeSantis was mistaken — Fried has been in office since January 2019, about two and half years.

She has been critical of the governor’s COVID-19 policies. And the two have clashed over the handling of the pandemic.

In addition, the Phoenix wrote earlier that DeSantis has been open about his disdain for what used to be monthly Cabinet meetings, arguing that the work rarely includes urgent matters. He and Fried have clashed from time to time during these meetings, and he kept her off a task force he appointed to plan the economy’s reopening.

The governor’s remarks appeared to be less than a minute, but the attack suggested Floridians are in for a bare-knuckles brawl as DeSantis seeks reelection next year.

Fried hit back via Twitter.

“I think we struck a nerve with @GovRonDeSantis. Temper tantrums are for toddlers, not governors,” Fried wrote.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.