WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A day after Florida's agriculture commissioner announced she is running for governor, Nikki Fried spoke with WPTV morning anchor Mike Trim about her decision to run for the state's highest office.
Calling herself a "fierce fighter," Fried said she has seen injustice while traveling across the state in her current role.
"I've seen the heartbreak in so many of our Floridians and seen that the system is rigged and corrupt that is working against them," Fried said.
She specifically pointed out problems with the state's education system and issues distributing unemployment benefits problems at the height of the pandemic last year.
"The people of our state are expecting something new. They want something new, and they want somebody who is going to break the system, and give the system back to the people of our state and make sure that they are put as a priority," Fried said.
The 43-year-old Fort Lauderdale attorney was the only Democrat to win a statewide election in 2018 and is the lone Democrat in the governor's cabinet.
Since taking office as agricultural commissioner, Fried has been a staunch critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies.
"One of the biggest critiques that I have for the governor is his lack of empathy for the people of our state," Fried said. "He chooses issues that are only geared toward a very small sector of our population, and those are ones that either going to be voting for him or give him campaign contributions."
She was critical of the governor's legislative priorities this year which included the so-called "anti-riot" bill, changes to Florida's election law, targeting social media companies and the new "Fairness In Women's Sports Act."
"[DeSantis] is somebody who is cold-hearted who doesn't understand that the people are looking up to their governor to be a leader, to be somebody who their children aspire to want to be like," Fried said. "Instead, the governor believes that he always has to be right instead of bringing people together, listening to different opinions."
Speaking to voters in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Fried said the environment will be a key focus of her administration if she is elected.
"Updating our best management protocols for our agricultural community, making sure there were less runoffs and less nutrients going into our waters," Fried said. "We put together the first time ever, in 20 years, an energy and climate summit, bringing together leaders across our entire country with emphasis on how we can do better working with agriculture and water quality."
The Democratic candidate said she supports marijuana legalization in Florida, saying it would give a large boost to the economy and would be an opportunity for struggling farmers.
"Look at every other state that has had [marijuana] legalization. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars that have been able to bring into the state and use that money, whether it toward affordable housing, education, infrastructure," Fried said.
During a Wednesday news conference in New Smyrna Beach where he signed the state's budget, DeSantis slammed Fried.
"Nikki Fried has done nothing in office. ... All she does is emote on social media, virtue signal to small-dollar donors in California and New York," DeSantis said. "She 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 called Fried a "lockdown lobbyist" who would have locked out students from schools for the entire school year due to the pandemic.
"I've done more, I think, in my first week as governor than she has done in her entire time as agricultural commissioner," DeSantis said.
Fried will square off against U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., in the Democratic primary in the 2022 gubernatorial race. Crist, who announced last month that he was running, has previously served as Florida's governor, but he was a Republican at the time.
If elected, Fried would be the first female governor in the history of Florida and the first Florida democratic governor to win an election since 1994.
She said the thought of that gives her chills and wants to continue breaking the glass ceiling for females of all ages.