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Democrats have only one viable option in U.S. Senate primary | Times Editorial Board recommendations
The winner takes on Sen. Marco Rubio, who does not have primary opposition.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol building.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol building. [ ANNA MONEYMAKER | Getty Images North America ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jul. 26

U.S. Senate — Democrats: Val Demings

Val Demings
Val Demings [ RICARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA | Orlando Sentinel ]

If Democrats want any shot at ousting incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, they should choose Val Demings. She has the most name recognition, the highest profile and the most momentum. She has more of the Democratic establishment behind her and she has raised the most money in this primary — by far. Her campaign measures financial contributions in the tens of millions of dollars while the others in the race are mostly stuck in the tens of thousands. Money isn’t everything, of course. Ideas, energy and likability still matter. But for a Democrat to knock off Rubio, it will take a massive blitz, and that takes money, and lots of it.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other races.

Demings, 65, spent 27 years in law enforcement and was Orlando’s first Black woman police chief. She was elected to the U.S. House in 2016 and was on Joe Biden’s list of potential running mates in 2020. She was one of the U.S. House’s impeachment managers in the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

Her campaign has played up her law enforcement roots, pushing back against the idea that Democrats support defunding the police. She mostly sticks to the standard Democratic platform. She voted for the COVID relief package in 2020 and 2021. She favors abortion rights, and voted in favor of more corporate transparency. She’s endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, a group that advocated for “sound environmental policy.”

Brian Rush, 63, is a Tampa attorney who served in the state House from 1986-1994. He calls himself a centrist Democrat, which makes him the “better candidate to beat Marco Rubio in the general election.” Rush has strong and well-reasoned views about balancing the budget and paying down the debt, something he points out that neither Demings nor Rubio have been able to do in their time in Congress. He would like to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by closing revenue loopholes and negotiating drug prices. He also wants to increase domestic energy production by leading with solar, wind and new generation nuclear, while ensuring there is enough oil and natural gas production to meet demand during the transition to clearer energy sources.

William Sanchez, 60, is a Miami lawyer running for elected office for the first time. He’s a graduate of the University of Miami and Georgetown University Law School and worked at the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel Office. He now runs his own law firm. He has a compelling life story about his family’s move to the United States from Cuba. He’s charismatic and energetic and would likely make a good candidate in a different race, but his campaign for Senate hasn’t taken flight.

Ricardo De La Fuente, 32, also qualified to run in this primary.

Democrats who want to win this Senate seat in the general election have only one viable option in the primary. The Times recommends Val Demings in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

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The recommendation process

Before making a recommendation, the Times Editorial Board asks candidates to fill out questionnaires and sit for an interview. The process can also include running criminal and civil background checks, interviewing candidates’ colleagues and employers, reviewing voting records and financial disclosures and examining their past and current positions on relevant issues.

Candidate replies

Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. Judicial candidates may send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. Aug. 4 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at voterguide@tampabay.com.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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