Outside of Florida, most observers probably didn’t think anything in particular about the third race for which a recount was ordered on 10 November after the 6 November election.
The big races, for U.S. Senate and governor, have captured all the attention. Initially, many national media outlets didn’t even mention the state race for agriculture commissioner.
But it’s a freighted race, as it turns out, and a very tight one. At the time Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered the recount, the margin between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell was only .06%, or a scant 5,296 votes.
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In fact, Caldwell had actually been ahead of Fried on election night. It was during the counting of all those other ballots after election day – some no doubt legitimate, others magically appearing and impossible to validate – that Fried began pulling ahead in the count.
The tightness of the race would ordinarily trigger a recount. So it’s not surprising that outside observers thought little of this development.
But a lot of Floridians recognize it as extremely important. Why does the agriculture commissioner’s race matter so much?
Because the agriculture commissioner administers concealed carry permits for the state of Florida.
Matt Caldwell is endorsed by the NRA in the commissioner’s race. Nikki Fried is not – and in fact is backed by Everytown, Michael Bloomberg’s gun-restrictions advocacy group, which is also, of course, a beneficiary of funding from George Soros. Everytown pledged a healthy $1.8 million to her campaign and the Democratic candidate for attorney general.
Fried isn’t just backed by Everytown. She’s plugged into the network, backed by Soros and progressive money man Tom Steyer, that has been pushing Andrew Gillum for governor and Sean Shaw for attorney general. Major PAC money has been presenting them as a slate of progressive candidates around the state throughout the 2018 campaign.
Fried filed to compete in the primary relatively late. And, like Gillum, she appeared in the primary to vault surprisingly over other candidates with more longevity and seeming likelihood of snagging the Democratic nod for the prospective office.
Fried is also plugged in to the reeking infrastructure of Broward County, through her own background as a lobbyist for the Broward County School Board, and her campaign consultant Matthew Botha, who has been the chief of staff for Broward County official Mark Bogen since 2015.
Bogen has been the vice-mayor of Broward County since 2017, and was elected a county commissioner in 2014. A Democrat, Bogen gained brief fame after the Parkland shooting incident for a series of interviews in which he lambasted President Trump for visiting the shooting victims.
Everytown, of course, was a key source of organization and instigation for the gun-restrictions push centered on Parkland and Broward County after the February 2018 shooting. Nikki Fried entered the race for agriculture commissioner in May 2018 — that’s when Bogen aide Botha came on board — with a review of policies and procedures on concealed carry as one of her top agenda items (along with legalizing pot, another enduring Soros priority).
Bogen and Sheriff Scott Israel haven’t always gotten along, but they’ve used the same political consultants in their campaigns – including one, the firm MDW, which developed the website for the Parkland-based activist group 17 for Change, formed after the high school shooting. Bogen lined up with organizers of 17 for Change, which bears the hallmark of typical progressive-left groups, to urge the “tackling” of gun laws.
This is the water Fried has been swimming in. Fried herself, as a candidate, has kept her comments about reviewing concealed carry policy anodyne and generic. There’s been a lot more media coverage during the campaign of Fried’s position on marijuana (and her problems with banks that didn’t want her campaign-account business because of donations from cannabis entrepreneurs) than of her intentions for the concealed carry review.
But Floridians who prioritize Second Amendment rights are watching the agriculture commissioner race closely. They’re concerned, as observers are in races around the country, about the unprecedentedly pervasive trend of Republican leads on election night being magically eroded as ballot counts drag on for days afterward – all focused on piles of ballots with one feature in common: the ballots were not cast in the regular manner, in secure ballot boxes or voting machines at polling places.
The concerned Floridians have a point.