WASHINGTON — Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief in her third term in Congress, is expected to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Marco Rubio in 2022.
The three-term Democrat will formally announce soon, according to one of her advisors. The news was first reported by Politico.
Demings, elected to the House in 2016, was on Joe Biden’s short list of vice presidential candidates last year. She represents a district in the Orlando area, which is an important territory in the crucial battleground state of Florida.
“I would’ve supported her running for governor, but this is the right fit for her and for us,” former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink told Politico about Demings, 64, who is the former chief of police in Orlando. Sink said it became clear during a meeting of Ruth List’s abortion-rights activists that Demings would represent the party’s best chance to maintain control of the Senate.
In April, Demings acknowledged on MSNBC that she’s been pushed to run for a higher office. “I have received calls and texts and messages from people all over the state asking me to run because they feel that they are not represented, and their voices are not heard,” she told Jonathan Capehart.
Rep. Val Demings of Florida: A look at her political career
“I want to go, Jonathan, to the position where I can do the most good. And be the most effective and do the most work. My home state of Florida deserves that,” she said.
Demings had been mulling a run for governor, according to sources. But according to her advisor, the Senate seat is a “more natural extension of her public service, especially continuing the work she has done in the House.”
The Senate is evenly split between the two parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
In Florida, Democrats have won just two statewide elections since 2010. In 2016, Rubio won reelection to serve a second term with 52% of the vote.
A national Democrat with knowledge of the party’s strategy on Senate races told USA TODAY Demings is seen as an “impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive.”
She burst into the national spotlight when she was selected to be one of seven impeachment managers to oversee former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial in the Senate.
Contributing: James Call, Florida Capital Bureau