Florida’s Senate Election: All eyes on Demings vs. Rubio

Florida’s Senate Election: All eyes on Demings vs. Rubio

2022-07-29T08:12:29-04:00July 28th, 2022|Economy, Florida, Midterms 2022, Orlando|

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Writer: Joshua Andino 

2 min read July 2022 U.S. Rep., former Chief of Police and Orlando’s own Val Demings is expected to emerge from Democratic primaries and challenge Republican incumbent and Florida’s Senior Sen. Marco Rubio in November elections. 

While the campaign has, for the most part, been quiet, the real kickoff is expected to begin after Labor Day, said Susan MacManus, a political analyst and University of South Florida professor emerita, in an interview with the opens in a new windowFlorida Phoenix. “There has long been a tradition in Florida that for general elections the real kickoff is after Labor Day when kids are back in school and holidays are over and vacations are over and people then start to focus on politics,” McManus said.

At this point, McManus stated, polls are more about name recognition, with voters largely not paying attention this early on. “It’s just hard to really focus people’s attention in the summer,” she said. “It’s hot, kids are home, vacations, financial struggles, all kinds of stuff are really making this campaign season a lot more difficult to get voters’ attention.” 

While Demings faces a crowded field against three other Democrats, opens in a new window a mix of former local legislators and Florida lawyers, she remains the strong favorite to win as the Democrats have aimed to have opens in a new window“bloodless” primaries by rallying around favored candidates early on. 

Rubio and Demings have slowly begun to spar on the airwaves, on the campaign trail and at their fundraisers. opens in a new windowDemings’ longtime career in law enforcement, which saw her become Orlando’s first female chief of police from 2007 to 2011, has led Rubio to tout his own law enforcement endorsements. In January, he rolled out his “Law Enforcement for Marco” coalition at the Florida Sheriff’s Conference. In May, Rubio secured the influential endorsement of the opens in a new windowFlorida Police Benevolent Association, representing some 30,000 LEO’s across the state. 

More recently, in an ad opens in a new window aired last week, law enforcement officers questioned Deming’s qualifications, highlighting prior statements made during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and claims that Demings believed defunding the police to be a “thoughtful” proposal. 

Demings, for her part, has challenged Rubio on fundraising, edging him out over the last quarter. Disclosures from the Federal Elections Commission show Demings clinching the lead, raising nearly opens in a new window $30.8 million to Rubio’s opens in a new window$30.1 million over the course of opens in a new window 2022’s first quarter. Demings ended June with just over $12 million cash-in-hand, with Rubio holding on to $14.5 million. 

Despite the strong fundraising efforts however, Rubio remains the favorite to capture a third term as senator. He maintains a strong lead in the polls, with polling aggregator RealClearPolitics’ giving opens in a new windowRubio a 9-point average lead over Demings. 

As the election heats up, the dynamics may shift, as some pollsters such as Center Street co-founder Jecob Perry explained in a statement to Florida Politics. “Marco’s still the favorite, but what’s interesting is that he’s sort of stalled out,” said Perry. “He has a motivated base of voters locked in, but he’s not making any new pitch to draw in new voters.” Demings will no doubt continue to tout her law enforcement credentials as well as her progressive voting record, which was impressive enough for her inclusion on then-candidate Joe Biden’s vice president shortlist. 

While Florida has increasingly and more frequently voted Republican, the race between Demings and Rubio may yet opens in a new windowrevive the state’s swing status