Donning a purple polo and purple Converse shoes to match, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried made her latest stop in Gainesville on the gubernatorial campaign trail Thursday.
Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor, spoke to supporters and constituents at the Tower Road Branch Library, located at 3020 SW 75th St., in a stop on the Get Out The Vote Bus Tour. The tour is slated to stop in eight more cities across the state ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.
Fried came to Gainesville just four days after Rep. Charlie Crist, another Democratic hopeful for governor, appeared at the Souls to the Polls event at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office.
About 30 people gathered outside the library to speak with Fried, whose Gainesville appearance followed stops in Panama City, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. The tour is meant to build campaign momentum and connect with constituents, Fried said.
“We’ll be going everywhere, and that will not stop with this campaign,” Fried said. “That’s just not who I am as a person.”
The tour, which launched Tuesday, began on the heels of a new University of North Florida poll that put Fried ahead of Crist by 4% in the Democratic primary. The bus will stop in Orlando Thursday night and continue around the state throughout the week.
Supporters like Emily Blais, a 23-year-old UF microbiology and English alumna, said the stops showcase Fried’s genuine interest in voters. Blais began backing Fried after watching her in the July 21 Florida gubernatorial Democratic primary debate, she said.
“She seems like she’s really here for the people instead of perpetuating any agenda,” she said.
Brian Marra, a 21-year-old UF history and English senior and president of UF College Democrats, said Fried’s tenacity and commitment to Democratic values convinced him to vote for her. Fried, who UF College Democrats officially endorsed in the Democratic primary, promises tangible change, he said.
“She is a fighter, she is actually a Democrat and she is actually running on a platform that I believe in,” Marra said.
Blais, Marra and others said Fried’s stances on issues like gun control, abortion rights and affordable housing drew their support.
Fried has advocated for more extensive background checks and red flag laws to curb gun violence. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the former precedent that federally protected the right to an abortion, Fried attended several rallies for abortion rights. She also vowed to cut funding for state attorneys who prosecute people who have abortions or physicians who perform them if elected.
Though Crist is running on an abortion rights platform, he described himself as “pro-life” during his term as a Republican governor. Crist still leads in other polls by as much as 10% despite the new UNF data.
Many constituents across the campaign trail consider reproductive rights to be among the election’s most important issues, Fried said. In Gainesville, residents voiced their opposition to Roe’s overturn through protests and marches across the city.
“That is something that is on the minds of literally every woman I’ve talked to,” she said.
With less than a week left before the primary, Fried said she feels confident. With her recent surge in polls and final efforts like the bus tour, she said her campaign is set to finish strong.
“We’re feeling energized, we feel momentum on the ground,” Fried said. “We’re calling it a ‘Nikki Wave.’”
Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.