(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Charlie Crist on Tuesday defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, ABC News projects, setting up a high-profile matchup against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall.
With about 92% of the expected vote counted, Crist won with roughly 60% of the vote, while Fried trailed in second with about 35%.
Crist will next face off against DeSantis, a top Democratic boogeyman who has emerged as a major GOP culture warrior, forcing through several policies through in Florida on issues like discussing sexual orientation and gender topics in public schools.
Crist previously served as governor himself — but as a Republican before becoming an independent once leaving office and ultimately running for the House as a Democrat. Running against Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, he insisted he could appeal to a broader swath of the electorate with his more moderate “happy warrior” persona.
DeSantis, who narrowly won his 2018 race, heads into the general with a war chest of over $130 million — and a rising national profile.
Democrats hope to unseat him in an attempt to not only win back the governor’s mansion but also cut off a potential 2024 presidential bid by the first-term governor.
In the primary, Crist and Fried battled over their ideological purity and ability to defeat DeSantis.
Crist also criticized Fried for her ties to the Republican Party. As a lobbyist for a medical marijuana company, she campaigned for former State Sen. Manny Diaz of Miami, the current education commissioner and staunch ally of DeSantis. Fried also was college friends with Trump-ally Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Fried lambasted Crist’s party switching, casting him as soft on key Democratic issues like abortion access and argued that she could produce a groundswell of Democratic voters this November.
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