Demings was earlier rumored to be mulling a run for governor of Florida

By Virginia Chamlee
June 09, 2021 05:16 PM
Val Demings, Marco Rubio
From left: Rep. Val Demings and Sen. Marco Rubio
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Florida Rep. Val Demings has officially thrown her hat in the ring for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Marco Rubio in what is likely to one of the country's most watched midterm elections.

Demings, a Democrat, released a three-minute announcement video on Wednesday drawing on her time as the Orlando's Police Department's first female chief of police and her own personal history growing up "in the South poor, Black and female."

"I've never tired of standing up for what I believe is right," Demings, 64, said in the video. "Now I'm running for the United States Senate because of two simple words: never tire."

The lawmaker was on President Joe Biden's shortlist of possible running mates last year and was earlier rumored to be mulling a run for governor of Florida, but opted instead to challenge Republican Sen. Rubio.

Rubio, a former 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was first elected to Congress in 2010.

Demings worked in law enforcement before being elected as a U.S. representative in 2017.

Already, her campaign is already looking to draw a contrast between her and Rubio.

"She's the daughter of a maid and a janitor who became the first Black woman police chief in Orlando," an adviser described to Politico last month. "He's the son of a maid and a bartender who's a career politician."

Demings reiterated that back story in her announcement video, saying, "My father was a janitor and my mother was a maid. She said, 'Val, never grow tired of doing good.' "

Republicans, who have a string of successful Florida elections in recent years, bit back at Demings' announcement, saying she was "a Pelosi Puppet just looking for a promotion."

In her announcement video, Demings also spoke of her partnership with her husband, former Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, whom she called her "No. 1 partner in crime-fighting."

Demings, who served 27 years with the Orlando police, said, "I just never got tired of it. Eventually, this working mom worked her way up to chief of police."

She also touted her record in the House of Representatives, where she served as one of the seven impeachment managers who argued the case against former President Donald Trump during his first of two trials.

That was another point of contrast with Rubio, who has become a Trump defender after earlier criticism.

"We brought law and order to a lawless president," Demings said in the video, which cut to photos Rubio shaking hands with Trump.

She continued: "It turns out, 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."

Val Demings
Rep. Val Demings
| Credit: Brian Stukes/Getty Images

Demings has made other headlines this year, including a verbal sparring match with Republican Rep. Jim Jordan during debate over a bill to address anti-Asian hate crimes.

After Jordan interrupted her, she quickly told the Ohio lawmaker, "I have the floor Mr. Jordan ... Did I strike a nerve?"

The exchange came in response to an amendment introduced by Republicans that would prevent the defunding of police departments, despite the fact that the the legislation as written would not strip law enforcement funding.

Demings drew on her own experience in calling the amendment "completely irrelevant."

"Good police officers deserve your support," she said. "You know, it's interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so. Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. They deserve better And the American people deserve better."