Congresswoman Val Demings has announced her candidacy for US Senate. Despite Florida’s clear trend toward the GOP at the statewide level, national Democrats are crowing about this “get” in terms of candidate recruitment and now see the race as a potential pick-up in a 50-50 US Senate.
Demings is at least on paper about as good a candidate as the Florida Democrats could recruit for any statewide office anytime in the last decade. She’s spent a lifetime in law enforcement after growing up poor in segregated Jacksonville.
She’s a native Floridian and has developed a national profile which further mushroomed during the 2020 Senate Impeachment trial. She impressed observers, even Republicans with her role in the prosecution of President Trump.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the demographics of the state have shifted in the last several years against the party. Demings would have been a likely winner if she’d been run statewide in 2016 or 2018, but will face an uphill fight in 2022.
The explosion of new Republican-leaning voters in exurban-styled subdivisions has intensified since 2016. Democrats have had no answer for the types of voters that have recently filled up places like Palm Bay, Deltona and Northport – large population centers that keep growing and have virtually no organized Democratic Party infrastructure.
Senator Marco Rubio has oddly cultivated a reputation for being not as offensive as Donald Trump to many even though he was throughout 2015 and 2016 just as offensive with his rhetoric about President Obama and barely cloaked his race-baiting.
A major issue in a throwback to the 1980’s, in 2022 could be law and order. Crime rates are beginning to spike especially in large urban areas and various anxieties as well as political polarization.
Demings unlike most Democrats can speak with authority on this issue and negate the classic caricature Republicans paint of Democrats on crime. Her presence at the top-of-the-ticket might help the party negate attacks which will in a state like Florida surely be fatal down-ballot.
Several other Democrats are running for the US Senate seat including Miami Commissioner Ken Russell (whom I have a lot of respect for and personally like) and former Congressman Alan Grayson (full disclosure, I have previously worked for Rep. Grayson). But no question Demings would likely be the strongest statewide bet against Rubio for the Democrats.
All of this having been said, Demings like any Democrat in Florida is at a disadvantage in a statewide race. The Democratic Party infrastructure is almost non-existent statewide. Additionally the party’s brand in this state represents nothing for the average voter outside of whiny victimization and taking the opposite side of whatever the Republicans say or do even if it is ideologically inconsistent.
Here are the reasons I love the idea of Demings as the party’s nominee:
- She is an accomplished law enforcement official and trailblazing African-American woman.
- She can help redefine Florida Democrats stance and positioning on crime issues
- As a former Police Chief when she says we need more gun control, she speaks with authority and credibility
- She will absolutely rip Rubio to shreds in a debate if the moderators do their job.
- Whatever damage a potentially weak and error-prone Gubernatorial nominee does to the whole ticket can be partially undone with Demings as the US Senate nominee.