- Rep. Val Demings will take on Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race next year, Politico reported.
- Demings is a high-profile, top-tier candidate for Democrats in a politically-tricky state.
- As a former police chief, she could offer a compelling perspective on issues of policing reform.
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Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief who rose to national prominence as an impeachment manager in former President Donald Trump’s first Senate trial, on Wednesday officially launched her campaign to defeat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“I’m running for US Senate because I will never tire of standing up for what is right,” she said on Twitter. “Never tire of serving Florida. Never tire of doing good.”
The entry of Demings into the race provides Democrats with a top-tier candidate in the nation’s premier swing state, albeit one that has had a slight Republican tinge over the past few election cycles.
For months, Demings, who was on President Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice presidential running mates last year, mulled over running for Senate or jumping into the 2022 governor’s race against GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.
However, Demings felt that she could be most effective by taking on Rubio, according to a Politico report from May.
Demings hinted at a Senate run during an April appearance on “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart.”
“I have received calls and texts and messages from people all over the state asking me to run because they feel that they are not represented and their voices are not heard,” she said. “I want to go to the position where I can do the most good. My home state of Florida deserves that.”
-Val Demings (@valdemings) June 9, 2021
A national Democrat with knowledge of the party’s strategy to compete for the Senate seat praised Demings’ candidacy last month, telling Politico: “Val is an impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive.”
In what will likely be a core campaign message to working-class voters, a Demings advisor compared the congresswoman’s biography to that of Rubio.
“She’s the daughter of a maid and a janitor who became the first Black woman police chief in Orlando,” the advisor told Politico. “He’s the son of a maid and a bartender who’s a career politician.”
The advisor also said that Demings was dismayed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his current “obstruction” under Biden.
“If I had to point to one thing, I think it’s the Covid bill and the way Republicans voted against it for no good reason,” the advisor told Politico. “That really helped push her over the edge.”
Democrats had been angling to find a candidate to take on Rubio, a two-term senator who was first elected in 2010 and ran for president in 2016. The party is anxious to defeat the ambitious senator, but after his easier-than-expected re-election in 2016, along with Democratic statewide losses in 2018 and Trump’s win over Biden in the state last year, Republicans have been politically ascendant in Florida.
However, with Demings as a candidate, she can compellingly speak on issues of policing and criminal justice reform, and could also blunt GOP attacks regarding the “defund the police” movement, which some in the party blame for electoral losses last year.
Demings was first elected to the House in 2016, where she represents the 10th Congressional district, anchored in Orlando. She sits on the powerful Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security committees.
Demings was a law enforcement officer with the Orlando Police Department for 27 years, serving as its chief of police from 2007 to 2011. Her husband, Jerry Demings, also served as chief of Orlando’s police, and is currently the Mayor of Orange County, one of the fastest-growing localities in Central Florida.
After Trump was impeached by the House in 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over the Ukraine scandal, Demings was a highly-visible impeachment manager in his Senate trial, where she argued for his conviction.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump, but Demings told NPR that the decision to make a case against Trump was “worth it.”
“The House managers were the defenders of the Constitution,” she said. “And just like when I was a law enforcement officer, when I saw someone breaking the law, I did not stop and think about, well, my goodness, what will the judge do? What will the jury do down the road? I did my job to stop that threat and then go to court and plead my case.”