Miami, Fla. – As the U.S. Senate race in Florida intensiﬁes, U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings, a Democrat, has turned to the Caribbean communities in South Florida in her efforts to unseat Republican Senator Marco Rubio, as the two candidates continue to spar in one of the most expensive races in the Senate.
The former Orlando police chief even stepped into Republican-voter territory during ﬁve campaign stops last week in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Demings, 65, visited Little Havana, a large Republican voting population and despite the catcalls from staunch supporters of Rubio, who is Cuban-American, Deming walked serenely and even visited a Cuban restaurant, where she sampled a pastry.
Demings’ visit cut into Rubio’s homebase but she said her focus is on representing Florida as a whole in the U.S. Senate.
“As a United States Senator, it is my responsibility to make sure that I represent all people," Demings told reporters. "We should not pick and choose winners and losers based on our ethnic background, or where we live, or how much money we have."
Demings also met with the Haitian community leaders at the Wildcat Center complex in North Miami encouraging people to vote in the August 23 primary and the general election in November.
Rubio, who has been in the Senate since 2011, ran unopposed in the primary and Demings is expected to win the Democratic primary.
"This is a tough race," she told the crowd and reporters. "Of course, it’s tough. But it’s winnable. We can win this race. We can win, regardless of those that want you to believe that we cannot.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime who was on hand said Demings’ visit demonstrates she’s willing to build a relationship with the Black community.
“Rarely do we have a candidate who’s willing to have a conversation in North Miami," he said. It’s not just show up and campaign. But ﬁelding questions, having a relationship and building a relationship with the community."
In the latest poll conducted by Progress Florida and Florida Watch, the candidates are tied with 45 percent from all registered voters in Florida.
Demings held even with Rubio in the polling despite remaining an unknown quantity to more than a third of Florida voters.
Gauging the favorability of both candidates, pollsters from The Hub found 36 percent of voters have a favorable view of the Orlando Congresswoman, 30 percent hold an unfavorable view and 34 percent said they could not rate her.
Meanwhile, voters know Rubio but more dislike him than like him. Pollsters found 52 percent of voters hold an unfavorable view of the two-term Senator, while just 43 percent hold a favorable view.
That leaves just ﬁve percent neutral on the Senator as he sits nine percentage points underwater.
Demings, who has outraised Rubio as of July, $30.5 million to $30 million, is not holding back on spending campaign funds on TV and radio ads, as the two launched attacks against each other.
The former police chief took out a massive multimillion-dollar ad buy in June to promote her fairly recent embracement of funding the police, as opposed to defunding the police, which several from her party’s far-left flank have called for.
Demings attacked Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate during a campaign TV ad that aired in seven markets in Florida.
"Marco Rubio, you have one of the worst attendance records in the U.S Senate," she said. "It’s simple, if you don’t show up for work, you lose your job."
In one of her campaigns ads she touts reducing the crime rate in Orlando by 40 percent as its ﬁrst female police chief, capping a 27-year career with the department.
But an ad from Rubio’s campaign undermined her background in law enforcement According to the 30-second ad published on YouTube last month, several uniformed law enforcement personnel attacked Demings’ voting record in Congress and called her a "radical rubber stamp."
"Demings votes with Pelosi 100 percent of the time," one ofﬁcer said, invoking data from Pro Publica that showed Demings and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed on 100 percent of votes in the 116th Congress, which ended Jan. 3, 2021. "She called abolishing the police ‘thoughtful,” another said, motioning air quotes.
On January 15, 2020, Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected Demings to serve as an impeachment manager in the ﬁrst Senate trial of President Donald Trump.
Another Rubio campaign TV ad challenged her commitment to law enforcement when she was a police chief.
Rubio’s new 30-second ad, “Failed,” begins with a video of Demings digging her own hole. The undated, unspeciﬁed clip from a Zoom conference shows her saying, “America has failed.”
That is followed by several Florida county Sheriffs and other law enforcement ofﬁcers chastising her and tying her to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Congresswoman Demings, America hasn’t failed, you did,” says Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.
“Val Demings went to Washington and became a puppet for Pelosi,” Ivey charges later. He later calls her “Just another radical rubber stamp.”
According to the Palm Beach Post, Demings’ campaign communications director Christian Slater shot back: “Marco Rubio is continuing to tell desperate lies about Chief Demings because he knows that her 27year law enforcement career is far more impressive to Florida voters than his nearly three decades as a career politician.”
The two candidates differ on the Respect for Marriage Act after the House passed it and awaits a vote in the Senate.
Demings voted in favor of the Act, but Rubio said he won’t vote for the bill when it comes before the U.S. Senate, calling it a "stupid waste of time."
“Equality under the law is an American value. We’re going to stand up for freedom and refuse to go back into a discriminatory past,” Demings said in a statement. “A small group of politicians do not get to dictate America’s future in this government of the people.
"Every married couple must have fair and equal access to all of the beneﬁts of marriage, from Social Security to veterans and military beneﬁts to health care. I’ll always ﬁght for your freedom and I’m proud to help support legislation to protect every American couple’s fundamental right to have their marriage treated as equal under federal law.”
Following a series of mass shootings this year including at a Supermarket in a Black community in Buffalo, New York that claimed the lives of 10 Black people, and 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill to prevent dangerous people from accessing ﬁrearms, raising the minimum age requirement to 21 to purchase rifles, and allocating more money for mental health across the country, Demings agreed and said that she seeks to keep ﬁrearms out of the hands of "people who seek to do harm," saying that the gun control legislation she supports "isn’t about taking guns away from responsible, law-abiding people."
She supported the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act of 2017, which would have provided a lawful method of temporarily conﬁscating ﬁrearms from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Of the act, Demings said, "We must do what we can to make sure law enforcement has the tools it needs to more effectively perform the ever more challenging job of keeping us a safe nation. The Gun Violence Restraining Order Act is a major step to doing just that."
Rubio refused to support the bill and Biden’s push to ban assault rifles.
Rubio tweeted his response on Biden’s criticism: “I am asking for your prayers that @potus will come to Florida to campaign against me”