Florida Democrats to decide Tuesday who would be best to take abortion fight to DeSantis

Date:



CNN

Democratic nominees for Florida governor agree on this: New restrictions on abortion in the Sunshine State and uncertainty about the future of women’s health across America have revitalized voters and increased the urgency of their bid to overthrow Government Leader Ron. DeSantis to drop this fall.

But the question of who’s best suited to do battle with DeSantis—the seasoned Representative Charlie Crist or Nikki Fried, the state agriculture commissioner vying to become Florida’s first female governor—has sparked a bitter battle of words between the two. two candidates and led to an expensive advertising battle that shaped the final weeks of their race for the party’s nomination.

Democratic voters in Florida will be the final umpires on Tuesday when the state holds its primary, one of the last of the 2022 midterm cycle. The race is an example of how the changing abortion landscape following the fall of Roe v. Wade this summer infuses left-wing politics and gives Democrats renewed optimism about their chances on key battlefields.

With a significant fundraising advantage and overwhelming support from elected Democrats, Crist seemed well positioned to land the nomination a few months ago. Limited reliable polls have made it difficult to determine where the race is heading into Election Day, or how much voter sentiment has changed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a woman’s right to abortion is not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. But the dynamics of the race have changed significantly as voters and candidates have become clear about what’s at stake in November.

“I feel Nikki Fried is gaining ground,” said Brad Coker, a Florida pollster for Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy. “Don’t calculate her. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but if I found $100 under a rock, I’d bet it on Nikki Fried.”

For Fried, who stumbled out of the gates as a candidate and slowly recovered, Dobbs’ decision brought new purpose to her campaign, and she’s carried that momentum into the final stretch. She has hammered Crist, a former Republican governor before he became an independent and then a Democrat, on his complicated track record on abortion issues. She often reminds voters that Crist once considered himself “pro-life” and that he appointed a few judges who decided to enforce abortion restrictions.

“I’ve been pro-choice all my life,” Fried said during the race’s only debate last month. “I’ve made sure I’m on the side of women. Charlie can’t say the same.’

Whether Fried’s push was too late remains to be seen. By Monday, 970,000 Democrats had already voted by mail or on early voting sites (about 1.5 million Democrats voted in the 2018 primaries). However, the barrage of criticism has sunk so much that Crist felt the need to respond in the air. Throughout August, his campaign spent valuable advertising dollars on a 15-second defensive commercial to counter Fried’s attacks.

“I vetoed anti-abortion laws to protect your right to choose, and I have a perfect track record of NARAL and Planned Parenthood,” Crist said in the ad. “Nikki knows I fought for your right to choose. More importantly, you do the same now.”

The fall of Roe, though maligned by Democrats, has nevertheless provided a much-needed tailwind here for a party that has struggled since it lost the governor’s race to DeSantis by 32,000 votes four years ago. They have seen DeSantis use the office to push through an aggressively conservative agenda and catapult himself into the upper stratosphere of the GOP presidential candidates, raising an unimaginable sum of money for his reelection – more than $132 million on hand from Thursday. Meanwhile, Republicans surpassed Democrats in the state’s registered voters for the first time and now have a 200,000 voter advantage.

Democratic lawmakers, outnumbered in both chambers, were powerless when the legislature passed and DeSantis signed an abortion ban after 15 weeks, with no exception for rape and incest. The new law came into effect on July 1 and remains in effect despite a legal challenge.

But after the Dobbs decision, Democrats saw a flood of money pouring into their races and renewed energy manifested in protests across the state. Outrage continued as the consequences of life after Roe materialized. And last week, the fallout from another DeSantis-backed anti-abortion law, which requires parental consent for a minor to have an abortion, played out in public. A court ruled that a 16-year-old Florida girl with no parents was not mature enough to decide to terminate her pregnancy and denied her an exemption that would have allowed her to have an abortion.

To be clear, the Democrats here care most about one thing: beating DeSantis and slowing his rise to the national podium. However, the back and forth between Crist and Fried over abortion has come to encapsulate the dueling arguments for each other’s candidacy.

Fried’s allies hope an outburst over Crist could foreshadow the Florida landslide, as the country witnessed earlier this month when voters in Kansas rejected an amendment to remove abortion rights from the state’s constitution. They say that as a woman who won four years ago when every other Democrat who ran statewide in Florida lost, Fried is uniquely positioned to capture that energy.

Dobbs’ decision “was definitely a turning point,” said Kevin Cate, a top strategist for Fried. “The intensity after that was huge and you have people looking for someone to be their champion. It’s about meeting the moment.”

Yet much of the Democratic establishment in Florida thinks otherwise. Most elected Democrats support Crist, the candidate who brought them to the party’s governorship within 64,000 votes in 2014. The state’s largest unions have also backed Crist over Fried, Barbara Zdravecky, the former CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, and Alex Sink, the state’s formerly elected chief financial officer, who founded an organization promoting Democratic women. recruits and trains those who support abortion rights to run for office.

Most have said they are not bothered by Crist’s complicated history of abortion rights, focusing instead on his reliable track record during his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, insisting that his track record working from the middle will appeal to more swinging voters.

“For me it’s not, ‘You’re a woman, check that box, I’ll support you,'” said state representative Fentrice Driskell, who will lead the House Democrats in Tallahassee next year. “It’s, ‘What are you bringing to the table holistically?’ For me, Charlie Crist is the best person to meet at the moment.”

Perhaps most notably, the major abortion rights groups have chosen to remain neutral in the race.

State Representative Kristen Arrington, one of the few elected officials to support Fried, said she will support Crist if he is the candidate, but her fellow Democrats underestimate Fried’s appeal as a fresher face.

“I don’t want to poop them. Many of them have made decisions before (Dobbs),’ said Arrington. “But sometimes women can be their own worst enemy and not support each other. Nothing against the male candidates because they are great allies and we can’t do it alone, but I think it’s important to have women in leadership. For too long we’ve had men making decisions about our bodies.”

Crist and Fried have exhausted almost all of their resources to win the primaries, much of which they have spent convincing Democratic voters about abortion. Meanwhile, DeSantis and the Florida GOP have already spent more than $10 million on digital and television advertising for the incumbent governor’s reelection campaign, about twice as much as Fried and Crist spent together on airtime, according to an analysis of data collected by AdImpact.

Despite limited Florida investment so far, Democrats remain hopeful that next Wednesday, regardless of the nominee, the party and its election sponsors will step up to help fund a campaign against DeSantis. One potentially motivating factor is that Florida is one of the more permissive states for getting an abortion in the South for now.

But some Crist supporters have expressed concern that the tough battle over abortion in the primaries has caused the party to disintegrate on the road to a difficult general election.

“It’s a shame that Nikki Fried, in an effort to win political office, would try to undermine a fellow Democrat,” said Joshua Karp, a strategist for the Crist campaign. “Democrats are being fired to defend Roe at the polls. The only candidate who can build that coalition is Charlie Crist, which is why so many pro-choice leaders have backed him.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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