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Val Demings focuses on abortion in Tampa on stop supporting Janet Cruz

Both Democratic women face competitive races this year. Their opponents campaigned together in Tampa a day earlier.
“While we work to continue to lower the cost for everyday Floridians, we can protect constitutional rights at the same time,” said Rep. Val Demings, center, at a news conference at the Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday.
“While we work to continue to lower the cost for everyday Floridians, we can protect constitutional rights at the same time,” said Rep. Val Demings, center, at a news conference at the Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Nov. 2|Updated Nov. 2

U.S. Rep. Val Demings stopped in Tampa on Wednesday to offer her political heft to embattled state Sen. Janet Cruz as both Democrats near the end of their competitive races.

The get-out-the-vote news conference organized by state Senate Democrats doubled in part as a campaign stop for Demings, who is running for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio. The event focused on how the Democratic candidates would protect abortion access.

“We have a direct obligation to make sure we build a state and a nation where dreams can come true for our children and our grandchildren,” Demings said.

Florida Republicans are pushing for a state legislative supermajority — and see the Tampa-based Senate seat Cruz holds as a way to help get it. Her Republican opponent, Green Beret veteran Jay Collins, entered the race with the endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Collins has since appeared at multiple campaign stops with DeSantis, and on Tuesday spoke at a Tampa event with Rubio, Demings’ opponent.

Cruz’s Senate District 14 seat leans in favor of Democrats but has been won by both parties. In 2018, Cruz beat the Republican incumbent by just 411 votes.

Sen. Janet Cruz, left, who is campaigning for reelection, speaks as her daughter Ana Cruz stands by her side during a news conference at the Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday.
Sen. Janet Cruz, left, who is campaigning for reelection, speaks as her daughter Ana Cruz stands by her side during a news conference at the Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Both Demings and Cruz face elections in a midterm year in which Republicans have overtaken Democrats in Florida voter registrations and Democratic President Joe Biden has an approval rating below 50%. Florida’s Republicans have also continued to make inroads with Hispanic voters.

Democrats in Florida and across the nation have emphasized the issue of abortion in the hope it will reach beyond party lines and motivate turnout.

Cruz shared her story of being 16 and pregnant in 1973 — the same year as the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. She said her choice between her family and her faith was to give birth and raise her child, but that it isn’t the right choice for every woman.

Cruz said after the Dobbs Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe, women’s ability to make a choice won’t be the same.

“I am going to ask women today to be as angry this week as you were when this happened,” Cruz said. “You must turn in that ballot. There is so much at stake here.”

Rep. Val Demings holds her notes during a news conference at Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday.
Rep. Val Demings holds her notes during a news conference at Swope, Rodante P.A. office in Tampa on Wednesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Demings criticized Rubio’s co-sponsorship of a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks nationwide. Though most of her speech focused on abortion, Demings also said Democrats can “do two things at once” by being the party that will help with the affordability crisis.

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“While we work to continue to lower the cost for everyday Floridians, we can protect constitutional rights at the same time,” she said. “We don’t have to choose one over the other.”

On Tuesday, Rubio held a rally in Tampa where he criticized Demings and said she voted in favor of policies that contributed to inflation. His campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

Demings has far outpaced Rubio on fundraising, bringing in about $73 million through her campaign account while Rubio raised about $39 million. But Demings has lagged behind Rubio in recent polls.

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