Former Republican Governor Wins Florida Democratic Primary

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Former Republican governor and current Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida has defeated Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to PBS News.

Crist won with 60.2% of the vote, as of 8 p.m. EST according to PBS, citing reporting from The Associated Press. Crist is now slated to face off as the Democratic candidate against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, alongside a slate of minor third party and write-in candidates, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Heading into the Aug. 23 primary, Crist was the outsize favorite, having gathered key endorsements from the Florida teacher’s union, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, several environmental groups (who have long viewed Crist as an ally) and black faith groups, according to Politico. In addition, over 150 local and state level politicians and community leaders endorsed Crist, compared to just 25 who endorsed Fried, with Crist securing twice as many endorsements from organizations, 12 to Fried’s six.

“Right now, the state really needs someone who can address the staffing shortages we have in so many professions, and the need to bring more job opportunities for Floridians,” Coy Jones, regional political director for SEIU Local 1199 said to the Tallahassee Democrat. “We see Charlie Crist as someone who can help do that.”The campaign has been heated at times, especially in recent weeks as Crist sought to secure his victory, Politico reported. Crist, when asked about negative comments he made about Fried, said that he had “gone accurate,” according to Politico.

Crist called Fried a “Republican lobbyist for big tobacco and insurance companies,” and criticized her longtime friendship with Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who is currently under investigation over allegations he paid a 17-year-old girl for sex, according to Politico. Their close relationship began when Gaetz was a state legislator involved in the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, but Fried has since cut ties with her erstwhile ally over the allegations, Politico reported.

Fried’s campaign had targeted parts of Crist’s record, focusing on the fact that Crist was a Republican governor, and has gone on the record  with anti-gay marriage and pro-life stances in the past, Politico reported. Fried has tried to paint herself as a committed Democrat, and what the party needs to beat DeSantis, citing her record in state government as the agriculture commissioner and as a Democrat who has won state office in Florida, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

“They see I’m the one who has taken on Ron DeSantis the last three and a half years,” said Fried last week, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “I’m able to tackle him on issue after issue and that I can get into the trenches and not just throw punches, but land them.”

Both candidates face an uphill battle against DeSantis, who had a roughly eight-point lead over both, according to a recent poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce released Friday. According to the same poll, Desantis boasted a 54% approval rating, with roughly half of respondents believing that Florida is on the right track, compared to 30% that believed the country was.

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“I think the litmus test for voters in this election is one question and one question only: Who is the best to beat Ron DeSantis,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster to Politico ahead of the primary. “Nikki was not able to answer that one question effectively, and Charlie has.”

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