MPSHS Alumnus Nikki Fried Elected Chair of Florida Democrats

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

South Florida native, Nikki Fried won the election for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party on Feb. 25, contributing to a continuously accomplished career in Florida politics. 

Nicole Heather Fried, born in Miami in 1977, graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School. She then went on to graduate from the University of Florida, having studied political science and law. During her time at UF, Fried participated in student government and served as student body president.

Fried has been involved in Florida politics for years, first as a lobbyist for medical marijuana. In 2018, Fried became the first woman to win the election for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, which she served through 2022. Fried lost the bid for Democratic gubernatorial nominee to Charlie Crist in 2022.

As agriculture commissioner, Fried helped secure federal grants for Florida timber farmers and obtain government funding for federal food programs. Under Fried’s leadership, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Summer Breakspot program, an initiative that provides breakfast to children over summer vacation, opened early to serve 74 million meals to children during school closures in the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, during Fried’s time in office, hemp farming became legal, reflecting Fried’s more comprehensive effort of working toward marijuana legalization. 

Fried also remains the last Florida Democrat to win an election for state office. That fact may have contributed to her win for party chair after a rough election cycle for Democrats in 2022. The position remained vacant after Fried’s predecessor, Manny Diaz, resigned. Fried announced her run for party chair 12 days before the election and ran against established figures in Florida politics, such as former state senator Annette Taddeo. 

“Most of us listened to a forum where they each got to speak, and then at our next meeting, we had a discussion about who we were for and why. And there was an array of top choices, there was Carolina Ampudia, Annette Taddeo, Nikki Fried, and somebody was for Hoye from Broward. So we had a mixed bag in terms of top choices in our group, but my personal top choice was Nikki Fried and I wasn’t the only one,” Miami’s Chair of the Blue Wave Coalition Julie Becker said. 

Others, such as Nancy Sittig from the Florida City Dedicated Democrats, did not favor Fried and now wait to see what will happen since she has won the election.

She wasn’t my first choice, but I like what I am hearing so far,” Sittig said.

The 2022 election cycle proved disappointing to many Democrats, and Fried’s election means that she will remain under pressure to secure better results in the coming elections.

“The difficulty is not just because of this one election. There’s been a long-term erosion of strength of the Democratic Party in Florida, for a host of different reasons. As well as the strengthening of the Republican Party in Florida. And so as she put it, it’s not that the Republicans won so strongly, but that [Democrats] lost so, so much. So it was a combination of the strength of the Republican Party and the lack of organized effort on the Democrats’ part that led to a lopsided result. So I think she has a very tough row to hoe, and I hope that she can do an excellent job. I hope she can do what she wants to accomplish, and I hope that she sees that it’s really not a one or two-year job, we need somebody who will be there for four, six, eight, 10 years,” Becker said.