U.S. Rep. Val Demings launched her campaign for Senate on Wednesday, challenging Sen. Marco Rubio.
In a new campaign video, shot in front of the Jacksonville church where Demings attended as a child, she said her background has prepared her for the race and the job.
“When you grow up in the South por, Black and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity.”
The Congresswoman told the Orlando Sentinel her long-rumored bid starts now.
“I know how to get through tough times, and I think we would all agree that we’re in some really tough, unusual times right now,” Demings told the newspaper. “But I’m not afraid of a tough fight.”
The move comes two days after Rubio told Fox News the Orlando Democrat “voted for socialist things” during her House tenure. That signaled his campaign messaging ahead of what’s expected to be one of the top Senate races in the country in 2022.
He released a statement after her launch labeling her House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s “puppet.”
“Marco has consistently delivered for Florida families. He created the small business rescue plan that saved millions of Florida Jobs, took on his own party to double the Child Tax Credit, and fought to ensure Florida veterans receive the care they earned,” the statement reads.
“Marco’s contrast with Val Demings could not be greater because she has no record of results for Florida. Since coming to Washington, she has voted with Nancy Pelosi nearly 100% of the time. She supported efforts to defund the police, opposed tax relief for working families, and led the effort to put Washington in charge of Florida’s elections. Florida deserves a Senator with a proven track record of fighting, and winning, for Florida families.”
Demings, meanwhile, signaled her own line of attack against the two-term incumbent during her interview with her hometown newspaper. She focused on familiar criticisms of the Senator as spineless and with a history of absenteeism.
“We need bold, courageous leaders to deal with those issues. And the bottom line is, too many times Marco Rubio did not show up,” she said. “And when he did, he did not have enough courage to fight for Florida.”
A matter sure to come up will be Demings role in the first impeachment of Donald Trump. She was among seven House impeachment managers who made the case on the Senate that Trump should be removed for strong-arming Ukranian leadership. Rubio voted against impeachment, and later voted against another impeachment of Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, even as he criticized parts of Trump’s behavior and actions both times.
One area where Demings’ candidacy may neutralize right-wing messaging, she’s a former Orlando Police Chief and wife to Orange County Sheriff-turned-Mayor Jerry Demings. She has regularly pushed back on attempts to say Democrats want to defund the police, including a notable spat with Rep. Jim Jordan earlier this year during a House Judiciary Committee meeting.
While some expected Demings this year to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis, Demings has regularly raised policy disagreements with Republican leadership. A run for Senate also means she can bring with her a federal campaign account where, as of the end of March, she held $1,053,971 in cash on hand. She’s also been able to raise more money there as she teased a Senate run.
Rubio as of the end of March had $3,935,319 in the bank.
She’s not the only Democrat running. Former Rep. Alan Grayson launched a campaign earlier this week and former Congressional candidate Allen Ellison has been running for months.
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