Campaign

Florida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) officially launched her Senate campaign in Florida on Wednesday, becoming the highest-profile Democrat yet to announce a challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 

“Unlike some in Washington, I never tired of standing up for what I believe is right, because no one is above the law,” Demings said in a video announcing her candidacy. “But it turns out, there are some in Washington who prefer the same old tired ways of doing business.”

She added: “I’m running for the United States Senate because of two simple words: Never tired.”

Demings, a former Orlando police chief and a rising star among Florida Democrats, had been expected for weeks to launch a Senate bid. Several other Democrats are already seeking the party’s nomination, including former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).

But Demings almost certainly enters the race with the most star power among Democrats. She was included on President Biden’s shortlist of potential running mates last summer before serving as one of the House impeachment managers during former President Trump’s second Senate trial in February.

Still, she — or any other Democrat — will likely face an uphill challenge against Rubio next year. Democrats have suffered a series of disappointing election cycles in Florida in recent years, most recently in 2020, when Trump carried the state for a second time and two Democrats lost Miami-area House seats that they had flipped just two years earlier.

Particularly alarming for Democrats was their performance in Miami-Dade County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold and one that the party typically needs to win by big margins. 

Biden carried the county in November, but by less than 8 points. By comparison, the-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won it in the 2016 presidential race by nearly 30 points, while still losing the state overall. 

In announcing her campaign on Wednesday, Demings touted her law enforcement experience, boasting that violent crime in Orlando dropped during her tenure as chief of police. That argument seeks to counter Republicans’ argument that Democratic leadership has led to a rise in violent crime nationwide. 

Rubio, appearing on Fox News on Tuesday night, hours before Demings announced her candidacy, went on the attack, claiming that his opponent had aligned herself with her party’s far-left wing — a talking point that is sure to dominate his 2022 reelection campaign. 

“None of them will admit to being a socialist,” Rubio said. “She probably won’t. But she certainly has voted for socialist things.”

Demings pushed back against that claim in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday, saying that she is not a socialist and casting Rubio’s line of attack as a sign that Republicans are threatened by her candidacy. 

“Desperate people will do and say desperate things,” she said. “And I don’t blame Rubio and the GOP for being very concerned about me running for the United States Senate against Marco Rubio.”

Updated at 7:57 a.m.

Tags 2022 midterms Alan Grayson Donald Trump Florida politics Florida Senate race Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Marco Rubio Val Demings

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