Fried promises bipartisanship after becoming only statewide Democrat

Former medical-marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried has become the only statewide elected Democrat.

Republican Matt Caldwell conceded on Monday afternoon, two weeks after Election Day.

In beating him by over 6,700 votes (.08%), Fried will take control of the sprawling Florida Department of Agriculture.

"The last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster."

Fox 13 spoke with the commissioner-elect as she was driven between transition meetings in Tallahassee.

"The House minority will be on the floor today choosing their next House leaders," said Fried. "I will be there."

She will take control of Florida's jack-of-many-trades Agriculture department. 

It handles gun permits, oranges, gas pumps and livestock. She campaigned partly on taking over administration of medical marijuana from the Department of Health. 

The Broward resident, where the Parkland shooting happened, also wants tighter background checks for concealed permit holders.

"None of those are partisan issues," she said. "My dad is a die-hard Republican, my mom is a die-hard Democrat. I was taught to balance the two." 

She believes the future of Florida politics will rest in economically conservative and socially liberal policies. On medical marijuana, which voters approved in a 2016 amendment vote, she says the Republican legislature has to work with her in expanding access to the sick and loosening rules around smokable treatments.

"The reality is 72 percent of us voted for this," she said. "Their constituents want this."

The attorney and former medical marijuana lobbyist leaves behind Florida mainstay Bill Nelson and near-history-maker Andrew Gillum as the only statewide Democrat. 

Her win marks transition in a department run by conservative Adam Putnam since 2011.

"I did receive a lot of Republican support. We saw that during the recounts," she said. "I kept getting communication from all over the state, they saw a lot of Rick Scott Ron DeSantis Nikki Fried ballots."

She said she has known Matt Caldwell for a number of years, and said she was not sure he was done exploring his legal options in this race.
However, with the results scheduled to be certified tomorrow, he began his concession this afternoon over text message.
They then talked by phone, with Fried saying they had a very nice conversation.