Crist, who held three of Florida’s highest elected state offices when he was still a Republican, and then switched to being a Democrat during the Obama years, was supported by 54 percent of the 800 Florida Democrats polled by GBAO. State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was second, with 28 percent. State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who ran as Crist’s lieutenant governor in 2014 when he was beaten by incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, was a distant third, with 7 percent. The rest were undecided.

Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Fried Pulls “Chain Gang Charlie” Ad After Backlash

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried’s campaign drew attention this week for a digital ad that the group Women’s March Florida said was used to “disingenuously secure Black votes.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried’s campaign drew attention this week for a digital ad that the group Women’s March Florida said was used to “disingenuously secure Black votes.”

The ad was pulled, and Fried tweeted an apology Tuesday night.

The ad targeted Fried’s Democratic primary rival, Charlie Crist, who, as a Republican state senator in the 1990s, was dubbed “Chain Gang Charlie” for supporting prison chain gangs.

The ad tried to draw a contrast between Crist and Fried, who was described as “our justice champion” while appearing in a photo at a rally with Women’s March Florida President Cortes Maria Lewis James.

While the Women’s March Florida president, who is Black, wasn’t identified in Fried’s piece, she hasn’t endorsed Fried and hadn’t consented to her image appearing in the ad, according to the group.

“The ad was triggering and extremely offensive to many people in the Black community who called Mrs. Lewis to express the same,” Women’s March Florida said in a news release, which noted there was also a “firestorm of commentary in political chats” on social media.

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The organization also was unhappy with the initial response of Fried’s campaign, which it said blamed the ad on an “affiliated” political committee.

The Crist campaign, which has tried to focus mostly on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, issued a statement Tuesday that said it “stands in support of the Women’s March Florida, and stands firmly against the offensive actions taken by the Fried campaign. We urge all members of the media to give this the news coverage it deserves.”

Fried tweeted Tuesday that she had called the Women’s March Florida president “immediately after learning about this racially insensitive ad.”

“I told her I am deeply sorry it happened, and I am,” Fried said in the tweet. “The ad was removed. It was 100% wrong. I’m so sorry for the pain it caused her and your important organization.”

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