More than a million Democrats in Florida gave U.S. Rep. Val Demings an early vote of confidence Tuesday as the party’s national leaders push for her to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio this fall.
Demings, 65, the former Orlando Police chief who’s served three terms in Congress, dominated the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, besting her closest opponent with about 84% of the vote by 9:45 p.m. She’s running to become the first Black U.S. senator from Florida.
The Associated Press called the race at 8:01 p.m.
Addressing supporters at a watch party in Orlando, Demings spoke of her vision for the country. She touched on reducing gun violence and protecting public education and the dignity of retired people.
“It’s about holding America to its promises,” she said. “The promise that every person — regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, how much money they might have in the bank, their sexual orientation, sexual identity or religion — will have the opportunity to succeed in the country we call the greatest country in the world. I dream of that America.”
Attorney and former state Rep. Brian Rush, 63, was in second with 6.3% of the vote. He ran on a platform of immigration reform and fiscal discipline.
William Sanchez, 60, an immigration attorney, had netted 5.6% of the vote. He ran on progressive policy positions such as support for the Green New Deal and Medicare for all.
And Ricardo De La Fuente, a green energy entrepreneur, was running last with 3.8%. The youngest candidate in the race at 32, De La Fuente ran on a platform of unifying the electorate.
Before the contest had been called, Rubio’s office released a statement calling Demings a “Pelosi Puppet” and “radical rubber stamp.”
The primary was hardly a race at all. With Demings’ eyes trained on Rubio for months, the Democratic candidates never debated. The congresswoman proved to be a formidable fundraiser, pulling in at least $47.8 million before the primary — $34.8 million of that coming from individual donations of $200 or less.
Demings outspent all her opponents more than 170 to 1, federal records show.
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