Nikki Fried

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Nikki Fried
Commissioner Fried portrait.jpg
12th Agriculture Commissioner of Florida
Assumed office
January 8, 2019
GovernorRon DeSantis
Preceded byAdam Putnam
Personal details
Born (1977-12-13) December 13, 1977 (age 43)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Florida (BA, MA, JD)
WebsiteGovernment website

Nicole Heather Fried[1](/frd/ FREED;[2] born December 13, 1977) is an American lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the 12th Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. She is the first woman elected to the position, the first Democrat to hold it since 2001, and currently the only Democratic statewide elected official in Florida.

Early life and education[edit]

Born to a Jewish family in Miami, Fried graduated from the University of Florida, where she was student body president and a member of Florida Blue Key.[3][4][5] She graduated from the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law.[4] Fried also earned a master's degree in political campaigning from the University of Florida.[6]

Career[edit]

After graduating in 2003, Fried worked at the law firm of Holland & Knight. She became a public defender for Florida's eighth judicial circuit in 2006, covering Alachua County and other counties. Fried was a foreclosure defense lawyer from 2009 until 2011, when she joined the law and lobbying firm of Colodny Fass.[6] Fried worked as a lobbyist for many interests, including the school boards, foster children, and later the marijuana industry.[3] Among her clients as a lobbyist were the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Walt Disney Co., Duke Energy, and HCA Healthcare. In 2016, Fried established her own lobbying firm; her main client was the School Board of Broward County.[6]

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services[edit]

2018 election[edit]

Fried won the Democratic nomination for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2018, defeating primary opponents Jeffrey Duane Porter (the mayor of Homestead) and Roy David Walker (an environmental activist) by a broad margin.[7] Fried was criticized by her primary opponents for her past campaign contributions to Republicans.[8]

In the general election, Fried faced off against Republican nominee state Representative Matt Caldwell,[9] of North Fort Myers, a real estate appraiser.[10] Fried ran on a platform in favor of removing obstacles to medical marijuana in Florida, criticizing the state government's inaction in implementing the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 2), in which Florida voters approved the right of qualified patients to use marijuana.[11] Fried described herself as "a fierce advocate for expanding access to medical marijuana for suffering Floridians"[9] and called for placing regulation of medical marijuana in the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services rather than the Department of Health.[12] Along with other Democratic candidates, Fried supported a state-run bank to provide financing for the marijuana industry, noting other banks' policies serving marijuana-related businesses.[11] During her 2018 campaign, Fried also pledged to "ensure full background checks are completed on gun permits"; in Florida, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is charged with issuing concealed carry permits, and incumbent Commissioner Adam Putnam was criticized after it was revealed in 2018 that his office failed to complete background checks before issuing tens of thousands of permits. In fact,it was less than 300 which were revoked when the mistakes of 3 civil service employees were caught during an audit. Applications aren't handled directly by the Ag Commissioner. They are handled by state civil service employees working under an FDACS "bureau chief" over CCW licensing.[12] Fried also pledged to "put science before politics and put our waterways first" if elected.[12] Fried also endorsed Amendment 4, which would automatically restore voting rights for most felons after the completion of their sentences (see felon disenfranchisement in Florida).[3]

Fried was endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times,[3] the Sun Sentinel,[13] and the Palm Beach Post.[14] Fried received the endorsements of the Everglades Trust, Sierra Club, Equality Florida, and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, while Caldwell received the endorsements of business and industry groups, including the Florida Farm Bureau's political action committee, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.[10]

Fried won an extremely tight election. While initial returns on Election Day showed Caldwell in the lead, by the completion of the count Fried narrowly pulled ahead with a margin of just 0.06% of votes separating the two candidates:[9] Following a machine recount and a manual (hand) recount, Fried maintained and slightly expanded her lead, ultimately winning by 6,753 votes (0.08%).[10] While Caldwell initially sued the Broward County supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes over the counting of ballots, Caldwell dropped the lawsuit and conceded defeat on November 19.[10] Fried became the first Democrat to win the Commissioner of Agriculture position since 1998, the only Democrat to win a statewide race in Florida in 2018, and the first Democrat elected to a statewide executive position in Florida since Alex Sink served as Chief Financial Officer from 2007 to 2011.[10]

Tenure[edit]

Fried opposed the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), the 2019-20 free trade agreement that officially amended the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[15][16]

In 2019 Fried crafted legislation with Democratic State Rep. Javier Fernandez targeting Florida gun laws. HB 809 would have required retention of fingerprint records, require proof of completion of firearms safety training for a license to be renewed, and reduced the term for a concealed-weapons permit from seven to five years. It did not pass the legislature in 2019.[17]

In 2020 Fried's office requested and was granted federal waivers to provide free meals to students despite schools being closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Almost 86% of the almost 287 million school lunches in the 2018-2019 Florida academic year were free or reduced lunches, serving 2.9 million students. The waivers and distributions are meant to make sure lower income students are not going hungry while schools remain closed.[18][19][20]

Fried was selected as one of seventeen speakers to jointly deliver the keynote address at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.[21]

Controversies[edit]

Shortly after entering office in 2019, Fried's office redesigned the Department of Agricultures certified gas-pump stickers, which verify to customers the gas pump has been approved by the state. Previous Agriculture Commissioners had put their own names on the stickers for decades, but Fried was the first to put a color photograph of herself smiling on the sticker. The decision sparked allegations by the Florida GOP, who accused Fried of using taxpayer funds to increase her political exposure. The Florida legislature quickly passed a law limiting the taxpayer-funded stickers to only “a combination of lettering, numbering, words, or the department logo.” The stickers then began to be replaced with a new design that does not have her photograph.[22][23]

In August 2019, the department appointed two registered lobbyists for the Florida Sugar Cane League to consult on the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual Project Delivery Team, which was set to advise the United States Army Corps of Engineers on procedures for lake levels. Environmentalists have called for lake levels to be lowered to prevent harmful discharges, while the sugar industry has advocated for keeping levels high to avoid the threat of low water supply for farmers and municipalities. U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers seeking the lobbyists removal, alleging the appointments were an attempt to force sugar industry influence into the process.[24] Seven Florida environmental groups, including Friends of the Everglades and Everglades Trust, called for the members to be removed and criticized their appointment.[25] While Fried originally defended the appointments as expert consultants, she later fired their consulting firm and removed them from working on the project.[26]

In December 2019, Fried abstained from a cabinet vote on the nominee for state Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) Commissioner, in apparent contravention of Florida state law. Florida law states cabinet officials "may not abstain" from cabinet votes unless there is a conflict of interest. Fried said she had concerns over the transparency of the nomination and said her interpretation of the law did not mandate her to vote yes or no. Two experts contacted by the Tampa Bay Times found her argument legally "shaky" and contrary to the purpose of Florida's open government laws.[27][28]

Electoral history[edit]

Commissioner of Agriculture[edit]

2018 Florida Commissioner of Agriculture election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Nikki Fried 4,032,954 50.04% +8.71%
Republican Matt Caldwell 4,026,201 49.96% -8.71%
Total votes 8,059,155 100.00% N/A
Democratic gain from Republican

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nicole Heather Fried from Tallahassee, Florida | VoterRecords.com". voterrecords.com. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  2. ^ "Name Pronunciation". MSNBC. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Times recommends: Nikki Fried for agriculture commissioner, Tampa Bay Times (October 1, 2018)
  4. ^ a b Nikki Fried, LeRoy Collins Institute, Florida State University.
  5. ^ https://jewishinsider.com/2020/05/floridas-only-statewide-elected-democrat-is-a-42-year-old-jewish-rising-star/
  6. ^ a b c Dan Sweeney, Where does Nikki Fried go from here?, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (November 22, 2018).
  7. ^ Craig Pittman, William March & Emily L. Mahoney, Broward attorney Nikki Fried wins Democratic nomination for Agriculture commissioner, Tampa Bay Times (August 28, 2018).
  8. ^ Bruce Ritchie, Democratic ag commissioner candidate donated to Republicans, Politico (August 2, 2018).
  9. ^ a b c Samantha J. Gross, Fried declares victory in Cabinet race, announces transition team ahead of recount, Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau (November 10, 2018).
  10. ^ a b c d e Bruce Ritchie, Caldwell concedes agriculture commissioner race after manual recount shows Fried winner, Politico (November 19, 2018).
  11. ^ a b Nikki Fried, fellow Democratic candidates call for a state-run bank to manage medical cannabis funds, Orlando Weekly (October 30, 2018).
  12. ^ a b c Jessica Weiss, Agriculture Commissioner Candidates Discuss Medical Marijuana, Guns, WLRN (October 19, 2018).
  13. ^ Nikki Fried offers ideas, Matt Caldwell offers the usual, in race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Sun-Sentinel (October 2, 2018).
  14. ^ Editorial: Fried offers fresh direction as Agriculture Commissioner, Palm Beach Post (October 1, 2018).
  15. ^ Staff. "Nikki Fried blasts Donald Trump over trade policies". News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  16. ^ Turner, Jim. "Nikki Fried remains opposed to trade deal". Florida Politics. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  17. ^ Ogles, Jacob. "Nikki Fried, Javier Fernandez want loopholes closed on concealed weapons permits". Florida Politics. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Smits, Garry. "Coronavirus: Florida receives federal waivers to serve meals at closed public schools". Daytona Beach News Journal. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  19. ^ Neal, David J. "Where some Floridians can get free meals for their children while schools are closed". Miami Herald. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  20. ^ Kirkland, Jordan. "New stickers hit gas pumps, replacing Fried's face". The Capitolist. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  21. ^ "Democrats Unveil A New Kind of Convention Keynote". 2020 Democratic National Convention. August 16, 2020. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  22. ^ Ogles, Jacob. "Face off: New Nikki Fried stickers continue popping up statewide". Florida Politics. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  23. ^ Turner, Jim. "Nikki Fried gas pump stickers spark dispute with Florida House GOP". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  24. ^ Fineout, Gary; Dixon, Matt. "Florida Playbook". Politico.
  25. ^ Treadway, Tyler. "Environmental Groups join Mast, want sugar lobbyists off Lake planning panel". TCPalm. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  26. ^ Treadway, Tyler. "Agriculture Commissioner Fires, takes consultants tied to sugar farmers off Lake Panel". TCPalm. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  27. ^ Mower, Lawrence. "Nikki Fried's Protest Vote for Florida bank regulator might have been against state law". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  28. ^ Downey, Renzo. "Florida GOP accuses Nikki Fried of ignoring law in Russell Weigel vote". Florida Politics. Retrieved December 5, 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Adam Putnam
Agriculture Commissioner of Florida
2019–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Elizabeth Warren
Keynote Speaker of the Democratic National Convention
2020
Served alongside: Stacey Abrams, Raumesh Akbari, Colin Allred, Brendan Boyle, Yvanna Cancela, Kathleen Clyde, Robert Garcia, Malcolm Kenyatta, Marlon Kimpson, Conor Lamb, Mari Manoogian, Victoria Neave, Jonathan Nez, Sam Park, Denny Ruprecht, Randall Woodfin
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