Florida Democrats choose Nikki Fried to lead party after ‘horrific November’

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Florida Democrats hoping a change in leadership can turn around statewide election losses, chose former gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried to be their next chair.

Democratic executive committee members elected Fried in a four-way contest with former state Sen. Annette Taddeo, Broward Democratic Party Chairman Rick Hoye and Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida Legislative Committee Chairwoman Carolina Ampudia in an election on Saturday.

Fried acknowledged a “horrific November election” in Florida but assured her supporters she had a “plan for success.”

“You better believe we are going to take it to [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis every damn day,” she said.

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Former Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried was elected as chair of the Florida Democratic Party on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, beating former State Sen. Annette Taddeo, in Orlando, Florida. 

Former Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried was elected as chair of the Florida Democratic Party on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, beating former State Sen. Annette Taddeo, in Orlando, Florida.  (Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The election was prompted after former party chair Manny Diaz, a former Miami Mayor, resigned last month.

Following her victory, Fried told an exuberant room they would increase “low dollar donations” in the next election cycle and would launch a major contest against Ron DeSantis, who she also referred to as a “zealous fascist dictator.”

“When we are showing success, when we are showing that we got a plan for success, the donors will be here,” said Fried.

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Florida Democrats cheer after electing former Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried as chair of the state party on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. 

Florida Democrats cheer after electing former Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried as chair of the state party on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Orlando, Florida.  (Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Christian Ziegler, the newly-elected chair of the Republican Party of Florida, told Politico that Fried will have to start her chairmanship ‘by convincing the 65 percent of Democrats who rejected her just months ago.”

“The losing by Democrats will continue and Florida will better because of it,” Ziegler added.

The Florida Democratic Party congratulated Fried on her victory Saturday and said it looks “forward to working together to elect Democrats up and down the ballot to deliver for Floridians.”

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Fried, who formerly served as Florida’s agriculture commissioner, joined the Democratic primary field in the 2022 gubernatorial race. In August, she lost to Charlie Crist, who went on to lose in the general election.

DeSantis won the contest by over 19 points.

The state Democratic Party suffered heavy losses across the state as well.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves at Prive catering hall on February 20, 2023 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 20: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves at Prive catering hall on February 20, 2023 in the Staten Island borough of New York City.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In 2022, Republicans picked up nine seats in Florida’s state legislature — going from 76 seats to 85. All 120 members were up for election.

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Democrats lost seven of those seats, dropping from 42 seats to 35. Two pickups were from vacancies.

That same election, Democrats lost four seats in the Florida state Senate — falling from 16 to just 12. All 40 seats were up for election.

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