(The Center Square) – When U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, disclosed in early May that she would not challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, the subsequent ripples set the Democrats’ field of candidates for the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.
All that remained was for Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief and three-term congressional representative – widely viewed as Democrats’ most formidable statewide candidate – to make it official.
She did so Wednesday morning, launching her campaign Wednesday against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in a video posted on Twitter.
“I'm running for U.S. Senate because I will never tire of standing up for what is right. Never tire of serving Florida. Never tire of doing good,” Demings said in the video, which features the Jacksonville church she attended as a child.
“When you grow up in the South poor, Black and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity,” said Demings, a 27-year career law enforcement officer who served as Orlando’s police chief 2007-11 and an Orlando-area U.S. Representative since 2017.
In the video, Demings cites her role as impeachment manager in the first Senate trial of President Donald Trump – a line of attack against Rubio as a go-along insider “too tired” to stand up for what’s right.
Rubio voted against impeachment and earlier this year against a second impeachment of Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“We brought law and order to a lawless president,” she said. “There are some in Washington who prefer the same old tired ways of doing business. Too tired to fight the efforts to suppress the people’s vote. They fall back to tired talking points and backwards solutions.”
Demings, who was on the short list of potential running mates for now-President Joe Biden, is married to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, also a career law enforcement officer who served as Orange County Sheriff for more than a decade through 2018.
Before she can challenge Rubio in the November 2022 general elections, Demings must defeat former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and former Congressional candidate Allen Ellison in a Democratic primary she’s heavily favored to win.
Rubio wasted no time in attacking Demings. In fact, he posted a video vowing to expose “the real Val Demings” on Tuesday before her formal announcement Wednesday.
“In 2022, Florida’s going to have a choice between two very different candidates and two very different records,” said Rubio, a former Florida House Speaker seeking his third term since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Voters are “going to learn more about how ineffective and extremist the real Val Demings is when she’s in Washington,” he said, calling her a “do-nothing House member without a single significant legislative achievement during her time in Congress.”
“I’ve always known that my opponent for the Senate was going to be a far-left, liberal Democrat,” he concluded. “Today we’ve just found out which one of them Chuck Schumer picked.”
Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs – and finances – the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a Wednesday statement that Demings “supported defunding the police” despite her well-documented committee clash with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in which she ridiculed the claim.
“This is not the kind of leader Floridians want or need,” Scott said. “Congresswoman Val Demings is a Pelosi puppet just looking for a promotion. She’s supported the most radical, socialist policies of ‘The Squad’ that would devastate Florida families. Senator Rubio has led the way in the Senate to fight for priorities every Florida family wants: more jobs, safe communities, a great education for their children and making sure freedom and democracy are preserved at home and across the globe.”