By John Kennedy, Capital Bureau USA TODAY NETWORK—FLORIDA, Oct 18, 2021.
TALLAHASSEE – Saying she is responding to voter calls for a “fighter and a leader,” Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo entered the governor’s race Monday, growing the Democratic field of contenders looking to defeat Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Taddeo previously ran statewide as the running mate of one of her current rivals, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, who has been campaigning for governor since May. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, entered the race a few weeks later.
But Taddeo said that she can unite and inspire a Democratic coalition of Black and Hispanic voters that the party needs to win. Taddeo’s state Senate district was carried by former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race, although she wasn’t on the ballot that year.
“As the first Latina Democrat, I think it’s really important that we get those voters…obviously all our minority communities, the coalition of Black and brown, which is frankly what I’ve done to win in a Trump seat,” Taddeo said.
Taddeo, 54, runs a translation service and is the mother of a child in public school. She was first elected to the Senate in 2017 after being Crist’s running mate three years earlier when he failed to stop now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott in his bid for a second term as governor.
Crist and Fried, though, are struggling to fire-up Floridians and donors, polls and campaign finance accounts show. While DeSantis is sitting on more than $58 million of cash for his campaign, Fried has about $3 million on hand, and Crist $2.8 million, according to their latest reports.
Both of those Democratic contenders trail DeSantis in polls, although Crist, a former Republican governor from 2007-11, tends to lead Fried in surveys focused on the Democratic primary.
Still, among Democrats, Taddeo is far back of even the modest numbers put up by her Democratic rivals. With about $300,000 in the bank for the race, her fund-raising ability will be an early test as her campaign kicks off.
Taddeo said she knows what Democrats want.
“We need a candidate that can excite us and get us to the finish line, not just in the primary,” Taddeo said.
Her rival, Fried, welcomed Taddeo into the race, but drew some contrasts between the candidates.
“I got into this race because Florida needs new leaders accountable solely to the people of Florida, not to the special interests who have controlled Tallahassee for decades,” Fried said.
“As the only statewide elected Democrat, I welcome Sen. Taddeo to the race, but I’m confident our team and our vision of something new for Florida will win this primary and general election.”
John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport
Image Credits: Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat