Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings is planning a bid for GOP Senator Marco Rubio’s seat next year, according to multiple sources familiar with her plans.
Demings has represented the Orlando area in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017. Before entering Congress, she had a 27-year career as a police officer and was the first female police chief in Orlando. She was on President Biden’s shortlist for potential vice presidential picks last year. News of Demings’ potential Senate bid was first reported by Politico.
A Demings adviser confirmed the congresswoman is planning a Senate run with a formal announcement in the coming weeks. A national Democrat with knowledge of the party’s strategy on Senate races also confirmed Demings’ likely run against Rubio.
“Val is an impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive,” the national Democrat said.
Democrats also hope to unseat Republican Governor Ron DeSantis next year, and Demings had also given some thought to a gubernatorial run. But an adviser said Demings feels the Senate is a “natural extension” of her public service. In an interview with “The 19th” released on Monday, she criticized Rubio’s record on voting rights and guns.
“We have a senator (Marco Rubio), as we talk about voting rights, as we talk about the American Rescue Plan and helping people who are in crisis, the For the People act, and so many pieces of legislation dealing with gun violence,” Demings said. “Florida doesn’t have a senator who cares about those things.”
But Rubio reintroduced a “red flag” gun proposal earlier this year based on a Florida law that prevents individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms.
A Rubio campaign spokesperson said Democrats are “tripping over themselves in a race to the left to find a candidate” and highlighted the second-term senator’s work on PPP loans and taxes.
“There’s going to be a lot of Democrats running,” Rubio told reporters Tuesday. “Whoever gets out of the primary, we look forward to the campaign. We have a good story to tell.”
In the governor’s race, Democratic Congressman and former Republican Governor Charlie Crist launched a bid to challenge DeSantis earlier this month. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, has also been mentioned as another potential candidate, and she released a video last week teasing a June 1 announcement.
Democrats are likely looking at tough races in challenging Rubio and DeSantis. A Democrat has not won a gubernatorial race in Florida since 1994, when Lawton Chiles won his second term. In 2018, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson lost his Senate reelection bid to former GOP Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Unlike the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm could endorse in some primaries.
If Demings does run for Rubio’s seat, she’ll be the sixth House Democrat to either run for another office or retire. Her suburban Orlando district is safely Democratic. Demings has won by at least 27 points since she was first elected in 2016. She narrowly lost a run in 2012 for the 10th District, and a run for Orange County mayor in 2014.
There are currently no Black women in the Senate since Vice President Kamala Harris resigned from her California seat earlier this year to join the Biden administration.