Representative Val Demings (D., Fla.) is preparing to challenge Republican Marco Rubio for his Florida Senate seat next year.
Demings has been deliberating between running for governor or senator but ultimately decided to pursue the latter position, several Democrats familiar with her thinking told Politico.
“I would’ve supported her running for governor, but this is the right fit for her and for us,” said Alex Sink, a former Florida chief financial officer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, who is now a senator in the state legislature.
“She’s going to draw a contrast between who she is and how she represents Florida vs. Marco Rubio, who a lot of people where I live never see him,” Sink noted.
Sink said she recently had a phone conversation with Demings and activists with Ruth’s List, the pro-abortion organization headquartered in Florida. She believes Demings is the best choice and representative for the Democrats as they try to solidify a strong majority in the U.S. Senate in the coming election cycle.
Demings, 64, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 from Orlando after serving as Orlando’s first black female chief of police. Demings landed in the national spotlight after she charged President Donald Trump with wrong doing as the only non-attorney on the first House impeachment committee. For her background in law enforcement and as a person of color, then candidate Joe Biden considered Demings as a potential running mate for the 2020 Democratic ticket.
Demings has grown reportedly grown frustrated with the leadership of GOP Governor Ron DeSantis and the “obstruction” of Republicans in the House.
“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,” Demings’ adviser said of her opinion on congressional partisan politics. “That really helped push her over the edge. She also had this huge fight with [Ohio Republican Rep.] Jim Jordan and it brought that into focus. This fight is in Washington and it’s the right fight for her to continue.”
While Demings claims Republicans weren’t motivated to help those hurt by COVID, most Republicans who voted against the relief bill objected to the billions in government spending that was included despite a tenuous — or non-existent — connection to combatting the pandemic. For example, the bill provided $86 billion to bail out public employee pension systems that were in some cases insolvent for decades before the pandemic.
Rubio’s competitive record of electability includes two won statewide general election races, posing a difficult obstacle for Demings to overcome. The sitting senator is a bilingual incumbent who appeals to Florida’s Hispanic demographic, a voting bloc which strongly supported the GOP in 2020 despite pundit and pollster predictions.
Hispanic people comprise about 17 percent of the state’s registered voters and African-Americans comprise about 14 percent.
The Collective Pac, founded to bolster Democratic black candidates, backed former candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum and is now working to propel Demings to the finish line for the U.S. Senate seat.
Democrats in the state are revamping voter registration drives in the state to ensure better performance prospects for future elections.