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Who is Nikki Fried? Florida Democrats’ new party chair will take on Ron DeSantis

The 2022 midterm elections were catastophic for the Democrats in Florida and the party has elected a new chair to help mount a resurgence.

Florida Dems elect Nikki Fried as new party chair
Orlando SentinelGetty

Former state commissioner of agriculture Nikki Fried has been elected to lead the Florida Democrats as party chair. She replaces Manny Diaz, who stepped down from the role in January.

The role is considered one of the toughest in state politics and Fried’s predecessor resigned after disappointing state-wide results for Democratic candidates in last November’s midterms.

Fried beat off a challenge from former state Sen. Annette Taddeo in what became a divisive battle in a key swing state. The 45-year-old endured accusations of being a “Republican operative” for her more centrist history, which included previously donating to GOP candidates.

In the pre-election debates, Fried positioned herself as the only candidate able to disrupt the Republicans’ growing influence in the Sunshine State. She said:

“We know that the road to the presidency runs through the state of Florida. We know that Ron DeSantis’ blueprint for the state, he wants to take to Washington D.C. We are that stopgap. And so we’ve got to make sure that we are using all of our voices and all of our community organizing.”

What will Nikki Fried do as party chair?

The Florida Democratic Party was once deemed a formidable political force but in recent years the Republicans have gained far greater influence in the state. Fried faces an uphill battle to turn the tide with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis becoming increasingly prominent in national politics as an assumed presidential candidate for 2024.

Fried graduated from the University of Florida in 2003 and practiced various forms of law before becoming a prominent lobbyist in the state’s marijuana industry. In 2018 she was elected as Florida commissioner of agriculture, heading up the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

She had been in that role until the start of 2023 when she surprised many by entering the race for Florida party chair just two weeks before the election. She had previously said that she was not interested in the job but her influence within state politics allowed her to quickly emerge as one of the frontrunners.

Despite her victory the hard work will really begin when she takes over control of a state Democratic Party reeling from poor election results in recent years. The party has suffered financial issues, underwhelming voter registration efforts and a lack of clear direction.

Voter registration is the primary challenge for Fried when she takes office, an area in which the Democrats had previously held an advantage over the Republican Party. The GOP surpassed the number of registered Democrats in the state in late 2021 and that margin has only grown since.

The 2022 midterms were catastrophic for Democrats in Florida, with not a single Democratic representative in state-wide elected office for the first time in more than a century.


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