Rep. Val Demings takes on Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida race

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 11:26 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The possible race in Florida next year between Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Val Demings could very well be the most expensive campaign in Senate history. Both candidates have already raised millions in this potential showdown match-up in 2022, with the Senate majority on the line.

Demings is known for becoming Orlando’s first female police chief and for her role as House impeachment manager against former president Donald Trump. Within a day of challenging Rubio’s re-election, Demings raised about a million dollars for her campaign.

“I look forward to comparing that record for example to Congresswoman Demings. She’s been in Congress for five years…She’s gotten nothing passed,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Rubio tells Gray Television Washington News Bureau’s Alana Austin he’s running on a bipartisan record and is proud of leading on the paycheck protection program, securing investments for Everglades restoration, and fighting for child tax credits. Rubio says if voters send him to Washington for a third term in the Senate, he will continue building on such efforts.

“We’ve made a lot of headway. We have to continue it,” said Rubio.

Through the pandemic, new residents flocked to Florida and Rubio says he thinks Republican leadership is a big attraction.

“I do think that that sort of common sense results that we’ve gotten from Governor DeSantis, from our state leadership and from the positions that I and Senator Scott have advocated for have benefited Florida, and I think the voters know that,” said Rubio.

The Demings campaign did not make time for an interview. In a statement, the Demings campaign said, “As a 27-year veteran of law enforcement, Val Demings has always taken on the tough fights during her career in public service. Marco Rubio has run from our nation’s toughest challenges including opposing the bi-partisan January 6th Commission that would investigate the insurrection at the US Capitol. Floridians are ready for a US Senator with the courage to stand up for Florida.”

The Sunshine State is trending redder in recent years. But the race remains very competitive, according to University of Central Florida professor Aubrey Jewett.

“For Democrats, I think Demings is arguably one of the best candidates that they could hope to get. Having said that…Rubio has the edge starting this campaign,” said Aubrey Jewett, University of Central Florida political science professor.

Jewett says Demings has the potential to energize African American voters and raise funds to compete with a powerful politician like Rubio. While Rubio benefits from name recognition and strong support from the Panhandle to South Florida.

The first quarter reports indicated Demings had $1,053,791 cash on hand while Rubio had $3,935,319. In the last month, Demings spent more than a million dollars to run hundreds of Facebook ads. During that same period, Rubio spent $7,244 on Facebook ads.

Spending on this race from inside and outside Florida is expected to balloon as the races heat up.

“For Demings to be successful, she’s got to get the resources, including money, she’s got to have a really good message and she’s going to have to attack Rubio and make the case that Floridians need someone new up in Washington,” said Jewett.

The primaries take place in Florida next summer.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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