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Challenging Marco Rubio
“You shouldn’t lose your job if you get sick or pregnant. America, we deserve better. ”
What will it take for a Democrat to beat Marco Rubio in Florida? What will it take to enact actual police reform in this country? Val Demings, a former police chief who aims to work from the inside to gain Florida voters’ trust and influence over the nation’s law enforcement, thinks she can do the job. Democrats wary of electing a ex-cop can take heart in knowing that Demings has had a long career as a progressive lawmaker with a strong record on gun control, healthcare, and reproductive rights.
After starting as a social worker in Jacksonville, Demings applied for a job as a police officer in 1983 and patrolled Orlando’s west side. She worked her way up in the department, and in 2007 was appointed Orlando’s first female police chief. During her tenure she oversaw a 40 percent decrease in violent crime, but not without controversy. A 2015 Atlantic article described the department as having “a long record of excessive-force allegations, and a lack of transparency on the subject, dating back at least as far as Demings’s time as chief.”
Demings was born into a working class family (her father was a janitor, her mother a maid) and became interested in law enforcement in high school, where she served on the “junior patrol.” She retired from the police department in 2011 after 27 years of service. The following year, she became the Democratic nominee for the United States House of Representatives in Florida’s 10th congressional district. She went up against Republican Daniel Webster, but was the victim of 2010’s Republican-led gerrymandering and lost by a small margin in a district that had previously gone to a Democrat. She received 48 percent of the vote to Webster’s 51 percent. Court-ordered redistricting in 2016 put the tenth district back in Democratic sights, and Demings won handily, taking 65 percent of the vote.
As a legislator, she has stayed true to her past, mostly sponsoring bills concerning crime and law enforcement. When the Congressional Black Caucus released the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Deming’s tweeted, “To protect our communities and the life, liberty, and safety of every American, it is vital that we hold bad cops accountable, end unjust practices, increase transparency, and refocus police on their core mission: to protect and serve every American, regardless of their race.” Republicans like to call themselves the party of law and order, but after the January 6th insurrection, it’s clear that’s a hollow refrain. Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, stands behind the party of sedition, while Val Demings is making a case for broad reforms that strengthen our democracy.
Caitlin Lent is a staff writer and media director for Weekly Senator. She is also a photographer and filmmaker. Born and raised in Deep River, Connecticut, she now lives and works in New York City.
“I’m sick of inaction while easily fixed loopholes cause death and tragedy in our communities. I call on Congress to immediately advance and pass common-sense reforms to stop mass shooters, slow the flow of untraceable weapons into our communities, and protect law enforcement officers... Let’s get this done and save lives.” (demings.house.gov)
“Americans have a right to healthcare and I will be relentless in my efforts to protect and expand that right. I’m proud to cosponsor new legislation to lower health insurance premiums and protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. The Trump Administration is dead wrong to side with big corporations in their sickening efforts to take away affordable care from millions of Americans, eliminate no-charge preventive services for older Americans, and increase out-of-pocket costs for families.” (demings.house.gov)
“If the Senate confirms this or any Supreme Court Justice who will end Roe v. Wade, criminalize abortion, and abolish the ACA \[Affordable Care Act], I commit to support legislation that will make abortion available in all 50 states.” (Twitter)