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Democratic gubernatorial candidates pitch electability and bipartisanship

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nearly 1.8 million Floridians have already cast a ballot ahead of the August primary election slated for next Tuesday.

Without a GOP challenger, the only question in the governor’s race is which Democrat will take on Gov. DeSantis in the November general election.

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In our final segment highlighting our interviews with the top two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Action News Jax asked Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL 13th) to give us their pitch on why they believe they’re best positioned to unseat the incumbent governor.

After a narrow defeat in 2018, Democratic voters have a lot riding on this gubernatorial election, especially given that most polls show DeSantis with a sizable lead over both Democratic candidates.

Fried pointed to her track record of winning.

She’s the first Democratic candidate to win a statewide election in Florida since Bill Nelson’s last victory in 2012.

“And as Commissioner of Agriculture, I also know that I can get into the rural communities, some of those areas that Democrats have not been able to go to. And lastly, you know, with the Roe decision, there’s a lot of women both on Democrats, Republicans and independents that are looking for that fierce fighter,” said Fried.

Crist leaned on his previous experience serving as governor, Florida’s attorney general and commissioner of education.

“I’m not gonna need any on-the-job training, and we need to get about the business of righting the wrongs of DeSantis quickly, starting with a woman’s right to choose. I mean, I think it’s unconscionable that he signed a law that bans it after 15 weeks or whatever. But the worst part of it, Jake, is that there’s no exemption for rape or incest,” said Crist.

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Whoever wins is likely to be up against a Republican-held state legislature, possibly with a veto-proof majority.

Fried said her record as the only statewide elected Democratic cabinet member has proven she’s able to find common ground.

“We have received almost 75 percent plus of our budget requests. Passing landmark legislation my first session on legalizing hemp in our state and other policy initiatives. So you’ve seen me already work across the aisle to get things accomplished,” said Fried.

Crist said he intends to use a carrot-and-stick approach to achieve his policy goals.

“But you don’t always have to exercise the veto in order for it to be a good negotiating tool. I can go to a member of the state house, a state representative, who comes to me and says, ‘Look, I got a project in my district at home, a water project, I don’t want you to line-item veto it out, governor.’ And I’d probably say something like, ‘Well, you know what, I’m open to that, but I want you to help me restore the rights of former felons,’” said Crist.

By following these links, you can find our full, uncut interviews with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist.

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