Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has officially announced she will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022, saying on Twitter that she is running because she will “never tire” of serving Florida and “standing up for what is right.”
The news has been widely expected, with a Demings adviser saying she would announce her candidacy in June.
Demings, who was Orlando’s first Black woman police chief and was on President Joe Biden’s shortlist of potential running mates in 2020, is seen by some Democrats as a strong challenger in a race that could be key to Democrats’ control of the Senate.
Demings, 64, was first elected to Congress in 2016. She played a central role in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial as one of the impeachment managers in the U.S. House. Previously, she served as an Orlando police officer for 27 years, rising to chief. Her husband, Jerry Demings, is Orange County mayor.
In a YouTube video announcing her candidacy, Demings traced her background from growing up as a Black child in Jacksonville to becoming Orlando police chief to getting elected to Congress.
“When you grow up in the South, poor, black and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity,” Demings said in the video, “My father was a janitor, and my mother was a maid. She said, ‘Val, never grow tired of doing good. Never tire. Work hard, not just for yourself but for others.”
In the video, Demings also cited her role in impeaching Trump, saying “we brought law and order to a lawless president,” and tried to portray Rubio as a go-along Washington insider.
“Unlike some in Washington, I never tire in standing up for what I believe is right because no one is above the law, But it turns out, there are some in Washington who prefer the same old tired ways of doing business,” she said as the video flashed pictures of Rubio with Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Demings is not likely to be alone among Democrats in the race. Other Democrats have also said they are jumping in, including Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Tampa Cuba activist Al Fox is also eyeing the race.
Rubio, a two-term Republican from Miami who is the state’s senior senator, has high name recognition and is expected to be a formidable opponent as he works to secure a third term.
A former state House speaker, he was first elected to the Senate in 2010. After an unsuccessful bid for president in 2016, he was re-elected to a second term in the Senate. He received 52 percent of the vote in the 2016 race, easily defeating former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy.
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Rubio’s campaign manager, Mark Morgan, released a statement Wednesday saying that “Marco’s contrast with Val Demings could not be greater because she has no record of results for Florida.” Morgan attempted to tie Demings to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying Demings voted with Pelosi “nearly 100 percent of the time.”
“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,” Morgan said in the statement.
Rubio also posted a video on Twitter on Wednesday morning, attacking Demings as a “do-nothing House member” and touting his own record.
“I’m looking forward to this campaign because it’s going to offer the people of Florida a very clear difference,” Rubio said in the video.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.