© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Val Demings On U.S. Senate Run: Stay Tuned


Congresswoman Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat whose national profile has surged the past few years, advised supporters to “stay tuned” Tuesday as she “seriously” considers a run for the U.S. Senate.

After Politico reported early Tuesday that Demings was planning to run next year against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Demings adviser said the third-term congresswoman and former Orlando police chief is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks. Demings then confirmed on Twitter that she is looking at Rubio’s seat.

“I'm humbled at the encouraging messages I'm seeing today,” Demings tweeted shortly after noon. “I know the stakes are too high for Republicans to stand in the way of getting things done for Floridians, which is why I'm seriously considering a run for the Senate. Stay tuned.”

University of Central Florida political-science professor Aubrey Jewett said he wouldn’t be surprised if Demings went for the Democratic senatorial nomination, potentially taking on a field that could include U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney in the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties. Demings also has been rumored to be interested in running for governor.

Jewett said Demings is possibly weighing which race offers the best chance of winning and which office she would be best suited for. Jewett added he’d consider Demings the early front runner in a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, but she wouldn’t clear the field.

“Demings getting in the race potentially further divides the women’s vote in the Democratic primary. So, there's that,” Jewett said. “In terms of race and ethnicity. I think it creates a matchup if Ayala gets in the race. If she has a weakness, it’s the fact that she (Demings) has a police background. For a number of young progressives, that’s not a plus. In the general election it might be. But for that particular group of voters in the Democratic primary it’s not.”

But within the party, Demings has been taking on a bigger role. The Collective PAC, which focuses on raising Black political engagement, quickly backed Demings, noting Tuesday morning in a news release she would become the first Black person and second woman elected as a U.S. senator from Florida.

“There has never been a more crucial time for us to elect leaders who are committed to criminal justice reform, safeguarding voting rights and ensuring government officials are held accountable for unethical behavior,” Collective co-founders Quentin James and Stefanie Brown James jointly said.

Senate Majority PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic super PAC, was already raising money off the Politico story Tuesday.

“This morning, it was reported that Democratic Representative Val Demings of Florida will run to unseat Republican Senator Marco Rubio — growing the field of Democratic candidates vying to flip this GOP-held seat,” an email fundraiser said. “2022 Is our chance to finally send Trump-endorsed Marco Rubio packing (and expand our Democratic Senate majority in the process).”

Demings spent 27 years with the Orlando police force, including more than three as chief. Demings, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee, also served as one of the Democratic House impeachment managers in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. She was also on a shortlist of potential running mates for President Joe Biden in 2020.