FL Commissioner of Agriculture Race: Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell will face off in November

When Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam decided to run for governor, seven candidates jumped in to compete for the open Cabinet post – four Republicans and three Democrats.

Two candidates in the group won in Tuesday’s primary: Attorney Nicole “Nikki” Fried easily defeated two other candidates to win the Democratic primary, and State House Rep. Matt Caldwell edged out three other candidates to win the Republican primary.

Fried and Caldwell will compete in the Nov. 6 general election to oversee the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The agency’s wide range of services includes ensuring food safety and providing meals to students in Florida schools; managing millions of acres of state forest lands and controlling wildfires; protecting livestock and crop plants; and safeguarding consumers.

Fried recently got a surge of news coverage when Wells Fargo bank notified that she had 30 days to find another bank. Why? Apparently because of her strong ties and support for the medical marijuana industry.

Her campaign website says: Nikki is running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner because she saw firsthand how our politicians failed the people with medical marijuana. Despite 72% of Floridians voting to approve a medical marijuana law, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have obstructed its implementation and denied access to sick, injured and dying individuals in our state.”

Matt Caldwell is a current Republican state House representative serving part of Lee County. He was elected in 2010.  His legislative biography lists himself as a real estate appraiser who lives in North Fort Myers.

On his campaign website, Caldwell states:

“Our freedoms are under attack by Washington bureaucrats. It’s time to stand up and fight to make sure liberty is preserved for the next generation. I’m running because Floridians need to have their 2nd Amendment rights, natural resources, and property protected. No one will work harder than I will to make that happen.”

Caldwell edged out Republicans Denise Grimsley, Mike McCalister and Baxter Troutman.

Grimsley is a Republican state senator serving a sprawling district including DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee, and Polk counties. She has been chair of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture.

Mike McCalister described himself on his campaign website as a retired U.S. Army Colonel, businessman, university instructor. And Baxter Troutman is a former state House member who described himself as a farmer and rancher, and the CEO of a personnel services company, according to his campaign website.

Of the Democratic candidates, Fried defeated Homestead Mayor Jeffrey Duane Porter, and Roy David Walker, who described himself as a 5th generation Floridian and president of the South Florida Audubon Society.




Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


  1. I find it interesting that Mr. Caldwell’s first, and apparently, primary platform issue is 2nd amendment rights. I would be interested to know how much campaign funding he receives from the NRA or other gun lobby groups. It’s a very strange thing to have concealed weapon licensing under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department. You would think it would be more appropriate in law enforcement, where background checks and proper training and safety requirements would be better served and overseen. Perhaps because the department also has consumer protection duties?


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