TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – One of the highest-profile races in Florida’s Aug. 23 primary is the one for the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, and neither of the two better known candidates is a stranger to holding public office.
U.S. Rep. and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and current Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried are the two Democratic frontrunners looking to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s midterm elections.
In interviews with 7News, both candidates were quick to pitch a platform, starting with Crist, a known name in the Sunshine State.
“I’m very disappointed with the current leadership in Florida. I feel like Governor DeSantis is tearing our state apart,” he said.
Fried, the only currently elected Democrat to hold statewide elected office, is also eyeing DeSantis’ seat.
“He’s not focusing on the day-to-day issues that are impacting people in our state, like affordability, housing, the environment, and I just knew I couldn’t sit back,” she said.
When it comes to these issues, women’s rights rise right to the top with the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade, sending a decision on abortion laws back to the states.
“I’m the only candidate in this race, as your governor, who has actually already vetoed an anti-abortion bill, and I’ll do it again if necessary,” said Crist.
Vetoing all potential anti-abortion legislation is a promise both Crist and Fried have made.
However, Fried is quick to call out Crist, who used to be a Republican before he left the party back in 2010.
“Unfortunately, I’m running against two white men who have been anti-choice for most of their careers, and Ron DeSantis certainly is,” she said.
Crist is quick to defend his record.
“She’s lying. I don’t flip-flop,” he said.
Both candidates described themselves as gun owners with a vision.
“We need to be making sure that we’re elevating the voices of so many in our Black and Brown communities who are seeing gun violence every single day, that they’re not being heard,” said Fried.
Meanwhile, Crist is taking a much harder stance on assault rifles.
“Banning assault weapons, for sure, having background checks that actually check backgrounds, and making sure we have red flag laws across the country,” he said.
The candidates are on the same page about real estate, saying Florida is becoming too expensive to buy a home.
Fried and Crist pointed to the state’s Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund as a means of lowering the cost of housing.
“We’ve been gutting the Sadowski Fund, which is the affordable trust fund, for almost $2.4 billion for the last 28 years, said Fried. “Jeb [Bush] did that, Rick [Scott] did that, Charlie did that, and Ron has done that, and so, now we have an affordability problem.”
“To help Floridians put a roof over their head, whether it’s for the purchase of a home or for renting an apartment, they’ve gutted it. This governor has gutted it; they passed a law that permanently cuts it in half,” said Crist.
Fried and Crist’s current focus may be on toppling each other for the nomination, but their ultimate goal is to take on DeSantis, along with the two others Democrats running against them: Cadance Daniel and Robert Willis.
“Just imagine what we could do if we break the whole rigged system,” said Fried in a campaign ad.
DeSantis is a Republican favorite and a possible 2024 contender for the White House.
“He cares more about the White House than he does our house,” said Crist.
“The people of our state are tired of the radicalization of the Republican Party. They’re tired of the fact that our governor has spent all this time creating culture wars, when we have buildings that are collapsing, when we have schools that are failing, and we have an economy that only works for the top 1%,” said Fried.
Whoever wins this primary will go toe to toe with DeSantis this election season, a likely uphill battle, to try and become the first Democratic governor in Florida since Lawton Chiles served from 1991 until his death in 1998.