Orlando Democratic Rep. Val Demings on Wednesday launched her bid to eliminate GOP Senator Marco Rubio, a race Democrats hope to use to regain relevance in a Republican-dominated state.
Demings, a 64-year-old former black Orlando police chief, is considered the top Democratic candidate statewide. She had considered running for governor before POLITICO reported in May that she was changing course to challenge Rubio. The move had ripple effects across the court, as Demings was seen as a likely frontrunner in either of the Democratic primary races.
“I am running for the US 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 on twitter.
The Orlando Sentinel was the first to report its announcement.
Rubio and Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senate Committee, will present Demings as a left-wing socialist, a message they have used successfully over the past two election cycles in Florida. Democrats hope his nearly three-decade career in law enforcement will help thwart these attacks, which often attempt to tie Democratic candidates to the “Defund the Police” movement.
Scott and the NRSC hailed Demings’ announcement by calling him a “Pelosi puppet” who, among other things, “supported police funding.”
“Senator Rubio has paved the way in the Senate to fight for the priorities all families in Florida want; more jobs, safe communities, a great education for their children and ensuring that freedom and democracy are preserved at home and around the world, ”said Scott. “This is what Floridians need, not just another Democratic puppet vote from DC with the radical left agenda of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer at every turn.”
The Senate is currently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote, so bringing down Rubio is key to Democrats’ national strategy to stay in power.
Demings, who is in his third term in Congress, gained national notoriety for serving as a manager in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and at one point on the shortlist to be running mate by President Joe Biden.
Florida Democrats were beaten from top to bottom in the ballot in 2020 by Republicans, including Trump, who won Florida by more than three points. The party has little control over the GOP-led state legislature, and the only statewide Democrat elected, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, is stepping down to run for the post of governor.