Nikki Fried: ‘The Extreme Ambitions of One Man Are Hurting People in Florida’

Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

By Giselle Balido

April 24, 2023

The Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party denounces the real damage caused by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars and White House ambitions, and reveals how Democrats are getting ready to win back Florida.

Former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has proven to be someone who is not afraid to speak truth to power, calling Gov. Ron DeSantis a “dictator” and a “zealot.” She even has a moniker for herself: bulldog. Because when it comes to fighting for Floridians, she says “I will not take no for an answer.”

During a one-on-one interview with Floricua, the recently elected Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party talked about the real damage caused by the Republican governor’s so-called culture wars, and how the Florida Democrats are preparing to step up, reach out, and inspire the state’s Democrats with a new vision for the Sunshine State.

‘A Very Extreme, Anti-Democratic, Anti-Freedom Agenda’

Floricua: A lot has been said about the six-week abortion ban signed by Gov. DeSantis. But apart from the controversy, what impact do you see it having for the average Florida woman?

Unfortunately, you’re going to see a lot of women having to take life decisions in their hands again, whether it is having unsafe procedures, or having to travel to other parts of the country or the world in order to have the health care access that used to be here in the state of Florida. If you have been raped, you have until 15 weeks, but now you will have to show documentation and go through a rape again, in essence, to get access to health care. Right now, the 15-week abortion ban is sitting in front of the Florida Supreme Court. And so, we are waiting to hear back whether or not that right to privacy is going to be denied under the Florida Constitution.

Statistics show that 75% of Floridians were not in favor of a six-week abortion ban. Why do you think Gov. DeSantis pushed for it?

It is all political. Ron DeSantis wants to be president of the United States. And so, he has been pushing a very extreme anti-democratic, anti-freedom agenda in the state of Florida. Even if your own personal beliefs are that you would never terminate a pregnancy, people understand that others should have that right and that freedom. Unfortunately, the extreme ambitions of one man are hurting people here in Florida.

RELATED: ‘It’s a Scary Time’: Florida Democrats Are Fighting Back Against Six-Week Abortion Ban

Do you think that Gov. DeSantis’ extreme conservative measures, for instance, the abortion ban, could backfire on him?

I am hearing outpours from not just Democrats, because this isn’t a democratic issue. This is a human rights issue. This is a health care issue. So, I am hearing from Democrats, from independents, from Republicans, that have said, ‘this is too far, this is extreme, this is not what we want.’ [DeSantis] has a super majority in both the House and the Senate, and he’s using that power to take away power from people. This is going too far, and this has now made him unelectable across the nation.

An Attack on the First Amendment

This month you were arrested in Tallahassee, along with Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, during a peaceful protest against the six-week abortion ban. 

This ban on protest is dangerous. It is literally the First Amendment in our constitution: the right to assemble, freedom of speech. [DeSantis] is making it harder for people to feel that they are safe to go out and voice their opposition to their government. Even in Tallahassee, the capital of the state of Florida, he’s changed the ways that people can protest inside the Capitol, outside the Capitol, and on the Capitol grounds. If we don’t have the power to protest our elected officials, to protest our government, then we become no different than those [communist] countries that so many people have been fleeing for generations. Unfortunately, with him running for president, these are the type of policies that he would take to the White House.

Just 49% of registered Democrats statewide cast ballots in the 2022 election compared, with 64% of Republicans, according to the Florida Division of Elections. To what do you attribute this apathy?

It was a perfect storm. We hadn’t been doing voter registration, really, since 2018. We haven’t been engaging all of our communities to have a seat at the table. Democrats did not do what they needed to do on the ground and had not been communicating with our communities across our state year-round. People need to know that they can trust us, that we’re going to show up for them, even when we’re not asking for their vote. [Voters] in a lot of ways were not inspired by the candidates at the top of the ticket. They didn’t see the fight, didn’t see Democrats standing up against the fascism that is coming out of Tallahassee. And so, people just felt that their vote didn’t matter. But that will not happen under my watch. 

RELATED: DeSantis’ Anti-Riot Law Infringes on First Amendment Rights, United Nations Reports

What do you think needs to be done to inspire those voters? 

We need to be talking about the issues that are important to the people of our state, not taking the bait on [DeSantis’] cultural wars. We have the highest property insurance in the entire country. People can’t afford property insurance, even if they can find somebody to cover their insurance. The rent is some of the highest in the nation. Access to health care is some of the lowest in the nation. We are seeing teacher shortages; over 100,000 of our students don’t have a full-time teacher in their classroom because of the war that has been waged against our K through 12 and now higher education. You’re seeing professors leaving our state institutions, people not taking jobs inside of our state.

We have chaos on actual issues that are impacting the people of our state. And unfortunately, Ron doesn’t want to talk about any of those. He wants to talk about “woke.” Democrats need to make sure that [Floridians] have a good paying job, that they can afford their rent, that they can feel safe taking their kids to school, that they can get into our, our colleges or our universities. These are things that are impacting people in our state.

Time to Step Up and Fight

Florida has had a Republican government for close to 30 years. Do you foresee any changes?

I am thinking that the pendulum has swung too extreme, and that the pendulum can’t stay there, and we know that pendulums swing back with force, and the Democratic Party is going to be that energy causing the swing to come back. And so, we are going to do things differently. We are going to make sure that we are organizing year-round, that we are doing voter registration, that we’re having the hard conversations in our communities that have questioned our loyalty to them, or our ability to make their lives better. We are going to be fighting back, we’re going to be stronger.

Anything you would like to add?

This is our time to step up. If you are an independent, if you are a true conservative Republican, meaning [you want] less government, less taxes, less spending, and home rule free market, then the place that you will find home is under a big tent Democratic Party. We welcome everybody to this table, and that is how we’re going to swing back our state to be truly representative of all the people.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.



Local News

Related Stories
Share This