Gubernatorial primary opponents target DeSantis over attacks on schools with face mask mandates

Both of the leading Democrats vying to run for Florida governor during the 2022 election agree that Gov. Ron DeSantis' opposition to vaccine mandates is wrong.

DAVIE, Fla. – Democratic Florida gubernatorial primary opponents agree Gov. Ron DeSantis shouldn’t be getting in the way of public health measures such as face mask requirements and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who announced her candidacy in June, has lobbied against DeSantis’s executive order against face mask mandates at schools.

“Masks work. The kids are safer wearing masks in school during this pandemic. School districts requiring masks had lower cases per capita than those that did not,” Fried said.

Fried’s opponent U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former GOP Florida governor turned Democrat, announced his candidacy in May. He said that what DeSantis has been doing to pressure school districts is completely wrong and it’s unacceptable.

“To punish people here in Broward County, throughout the state of Florida, for only wanting to keep our kids and our teachers safe, is unimaginable but that’s exactly what the governor is doing,” Crist said.

Fried, 43, and Crist, 65, also criticized DeSantis for prioritizing fundraising out of state over saving lives in Florida during the pandemic and for not listening to infectious disease experts’ recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need a governor who cares about people,” Crist said during an event in support of Broward County Public Schools on Thursday in Davie. “We need a governor who has a heart. We need a governor who understands science and healthcare experts.”

DeSantis and his political action committee have been way ahead of the Democrats. As of August, Fried had more cash after expenses than Crist with $2.82 million, while Crist had $2.48 million and DeSantis had $53 million, the Tallahassee Democrat reported mid-September.

DeSantis’ strategy to protect personal choices during the coronavirus pandemic also appears to be paying off politically. A Sept. 23-27 poll by VCreek/AMG found most of 405 Florida voters surveyed oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates and DeSantis leads with 47% of support over Crist and 48% over Fried.

About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.