Val Demings for U.S. Senate: A Times Editorial Board recommendation
Real leader with a relevant agenda in Washington
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. [ courtesy Val Demings campaign ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 21, 2022

The U.S. Senate is often considered the more deliberative chamber of Congress, where its 100 members must typically work across partisan lines to get anything meaningful done. The general election Nov. 8 will determine who will become one of two people to represent Florida. Senators are elected to six-year terms and paid $174,000 annually.

U.S. Senate: Val Demings, Democrat

Val Demings
Val Demings [ THOMAS CORDY | AP ]

In representing America’s third largest state, Florida’s two U.S. senators are tasked with speaking for a large, diverse constituency. But the incumbent, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, cannot find that voice. It’s unlikely he ever will. And after his decade in office, it’s beyond time that a senator from Florida stood for all Floridians. Democrat Val Demings can be that senator.

Demings, 65, was born in Jacksonville and spent three decades as a police officer and commander at the Orlando Police Department, making history in 2007 when she was appointed the city’s first female chief of police. In 2016, Demings was elected to Congress, representing the Orlando-Winter Garden area, where she has been a strong advocate for public safety, civil rights, the environment, free trade, clean energy and sensible immigration reform.

Demings lauds the Affordable Care Act for providing affordable health coverage to millions, and she vows to be “relentless” in her effort to expand the program in the Senate. She has championed gun safety legislation, drawing on her experience in law enforcement to push for stronger background checks, a ban on bump stocks and large-capacity magazines and a federal “red flag” law that would enable other states to follow Florida’s lead in keeping guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

As a senator, Demings vows to continue advocating for increased affordable housing funds. She opposes drilling off Florida’s coast and supports further efforts to combat the toxic algae blooms choking Florida’s waterways. Demings supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will bring jobs, improved infrastructure and cleaner industry to Florida. She is a strong protector of reproductive freedom and voting rights, and of mental health and other safety net programs that help strengthen families and communities alike.

Rubio, 51, was a city commissioner in West Miami who was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving from 2000 to 2008 in the Florida House of Representatives, where he served his last two years as speaker. In the Senate, Rubio has been a hawkish voice on national security and foreign policy, especially on matters relating to Cuba and Venezuela. He co-authored the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program, part of a massive COVID-19 relief package in 2020 that gave forgivable loans to small and medium-businesses, and which was credited for saving millions of jobs. Rubio would describe the PPP as “the most impactful legislation I’ve ever passed.”

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But Rubio has been a disappointment almost across the board. The son of Cuban immigrants, he turned his back on bipartisan immigration reform after catching conservative flak for spearheading the issue in 2013. He voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill, national voting rights legislation, a measure to codify abortion rights, legislation targeting sex-based wage discrimination, a $15 hourly federal minimum wage, the confirmation of Florida’s own Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a measure appointing a national commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 ransacking of the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists. Rubio also continues to hedge his position on abortion, suggesting previously he would support a total ban but acknowledging during a debate with Demings this week that a ban with no exceptions was not political feasible.

Rubio’s stuck in the past, increasingly partisan and simply untrustworthy — on immigration, abortion and other major issues. He seems entombed in a bubble and inaccessible to average Floridians. From Jan. 2011 to Sep. 2022, according to Govtrack, an independent government watchdog website, Rubio missed 352 of 3,843 roll call votes, or 9.2%, nearly four times the median of 2.4% among the lifetime records of current senators. (Demings, by contrast, missed 0.8% of roll call votes, far better than the 2.0% median among her House colleagues.) This lack of accountability reflects the worst trait of a career politician.

Demings is a proven leader whose courage, fair-mindedness, and sense of responsibility would elevate Florida’s voice in Washington. A Libertarian and two no-party candidates are also on the ballot.

For U.S. Senate, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Val Demings.

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.