ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried’s decision to run for governor means the cabinet seat is open for a new politician. Fried lost the Democratic primary to Charlie Crist.
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson is running for the job, as is Naomi Blemur.
Simpson is a multi-millionaire egg farm owner and a Republican, whose family has been in Florida for five generations. Blemur, a Democrat, is an accountant and granddaughter of a farm worker.
Simpson is running a well-funded campaign and is considered a heavy favorite with his ties to the agriculture industry. Blemur, an outsider, is focused on helping minority farmers.
The commissioner of agriculture is about more than farms. As the head of the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the commissioner oversees a department as varied as citrus crops, medical marijuana, school lunch programs, price gouging complaints, gas pump inspection, firearm licenses and theme park ride inspection.
Let’s meet the candidates.
Wilton Simpson of Trilby runs a large-scale egg operation. There’s a good chance the eggs in your refrigerator came from his farm.
Simpson burnished his conservative bona fides in the Florida Legislature, first in the Florida Senate, where he was first elected in 2012, and then as senate president.
Simpson supported the controversial net metering bill in the Florida Senate this past year, which would have limited the growth of solar energy in the state. The bill was supported by Florida Power and Light. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed that bill. DeSantis also vetoed a bill on Everglades restoration that Simpson supported that critics said was beneficial to the sugar industry. Simpson had sponsored the bill.
Still, Simpson has DeSantis’ endorsement, along with the endorsements of the rest of the Florida cabinet and many of the top conservative-supporting groups in the state.
Naomi Blemur is a Miami native and small business owner with a background in finance. She’s served on several local boards in the Miami area and has been active in local Democratic Party politics.
Blemur says she wants to be an advocate for small farmers, describing herself as the granddaughter of female farmers back in Haiti, where her family is from. She wants to use her background in finance to connect more farmers to resources.
She also wants to expand community garden programs in Florida counties by introducing dedicated land zones.
She wants to continue expanding industrial hemp in Florida and decriminalize cannabis (which she cannot do as agriculture commissioner).
Blemur also promises to tightly manage Florida’s weapons license system.
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