Nikki Fried, only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, launches challenge to DeSantis

Florida's Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is officially running for governor.

The lone statewide elected Democrat announced on Tuesday that she will challenge Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisSunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home Demings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio Florida Board of Education bans critical race theory MORE (R) in 2022 after months of speculation about a potential gubernatorial bid. In a video announcing her candidacy, Fried cast herself as a proven crusader against corruption, vowing to “break the whole rigged system.”

“Listen, this won’t be easy. Those in power will do whatever harm it takes to stay there,” Fried said in a video announcing her candidacy. “But I’ve spent my whole life taking on the system. I’m unafraid, I’m tested, I’m ready. And I know you’re ready for something new too.”


Fried’s announcement sets her up for a primary battle against Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristCongressional Black Caucus blocking Black House Republican from joining group Crist raises .35 million in first month of campaign for Florida governor The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Biden, Capito meet today as deadline looms MORE (D-Fla.), himself a former governor who announced last month that he would make another run for his old job.

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDemings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden mission abroad: reward friends, constrain adversaries Florida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio MORE (D-Fla.), who was once seen as a potential contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, is planning instead to challenge Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-Fla.) next year.


Ousting DeSantis is a top priority for Florida Democrats, who have been frozen out of the governor’s mansion for more than two decades. DeSantis is a top ally of former President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE and has been floated as a potential candidate for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.

Beating DeSantis likely won’t prove easy, however. The governor is beloved by conservatives and has amassed a staggering warchest for his reelection bid. In April alone, DeSantis’s political committee raked in nearly $14 million, its largest monthly haul since his 2018 campaign.

And while DeSantis faced intense criticism early last year over his lax handling of the coronavirus pandemic, recent polling shows his approval rating above water, suggesting that he’s on strong footing heading into his reelection bid.

Fried has made the argument that she’s the Democrat best equipped to go up against DeSantis next year, pointing to her success in 2018 when she narrowly defeated former state Rep. Matt Caldwell (R) in the agriculture commissioner race.

That same year, Democrat Andrew Gillum lost the governor’s race to DeSantis, while former Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio Russia threatens to leave International Space Station program over US sanctions Nikki Fried, only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, launches challenge to DeSantis MORE (D-Fla.) fell to then-Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate contest.


Fried has also positioned herself as a leading critic of DeSantis, hitting him over everything from his handling of the state’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout to his signing of a sweeping voting bill live on Fox News, which she compared to the use of state-sponsored media by authoritarian regimes.

“We are no longer a free state,” she added. “This governor has infringed upon our rights once again.”

Last month, she signaled that a campaign announcement was imminent, releasing a video on social media teasing “#SomethingNew” on June 1.