Ron DeSantis 'governs from an autocrat's playbook': Florida agriculture commissioner

On Monday, writing for the Miami Herald, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tore into GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, writing that he "governs from an autocrat's playbook."

"He doesn't want you to vote, doesn't want you to protest and doesn't even want you to disagree with him. I'm not describing the leader of a communist country, I'm talking about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis," wrote Fried, the only Democrat serving in statewide office in Florida and a frequently-discussed potential candidate for governor in 2022. "Since taking office, he's made his motives clear, becoming more authoritarian by the day. Using his office's power, the governor has eroded the liberty and rights of his constituents and businesses in the Sunshine State, rewarded his wealthy donors and undermined the media."

Fried particularly highlighted DeSantis' efforts to dismantle a voter-approved felony re-enfranchisement law, and his support for new laws rolling back the right to vote, and the new "anti-riot" bill that could lead to arrests of peaceful civil rights protesters. "From Nicolás Maduro's actions to undermine Venezuela's electoral process and suppress votes, to Daniel Ortega's moves to intimidate and confuse voters in Nicaragua, tactics to limit voting has been widespread in South American regimes. Voter suppression is a slippery slope that ends only with injustice," she wrote.

"Businesses aren't free from the governor's attacks, either," wrote Fried. "Many companies, especially those that rely on large group events, want to protect customers by requiring COVID-19 vaccines. But the governor issued an executive order banning the practice and urged the Legislature to outlaw it. At the same time, he's used his authority to provide his political donors with exclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines while frontline workers and teachers waited in line. And he's done this while adding more than $14 million to his reelection fund since January."

DeSantis took this a step further this week by moving to ban local governments from imposing COVID restrictions — even as Florida has among the highest COVID case rates in the U.S.

"Under DeSantis' 'regime,' if you don't support him or his party, he wants to stop you from voting. If you disagree with him, he'll use his authority to silence you. And if you dare protest and speak out, be prepared to end up behind bars," concluded Fried.

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