Val Demings for U.S. Senate in Florida? Yes, Ma’am.
OPINION: Demings, if successful, would bring a Black woman's voice back to the upper chamber, and she has all the right stuff to pull off an upset in a lean red state
What does it say that there are 24 women serving in the United States Senate presently and not one of them is Black?
It says to me as a Black woman that we need to be building a talented bench of Black female state legislators, members of Congress, as well as notable business, civic and community leaders to run statewide each cycle. Make sure they are well funded. Make sure their values, regardless of political party line-up with the issues most women care about.
The last Black woman to serve in the Senate, Kamala D. Harris, is now serving as vice president of the United States. And before her, there was another Black woman, Carol Mosely Braun of Illinois who served in the Senate 1993-1999 when the Senate had just two women before the 1992 Year of the Woman election cycle which brought four more women to the Senate chamber for a total of six.
Fast forward to present day 2021 in a very divided United States.
Florida Congresswoman and former police chief Val Demings is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in the Sunshine State. Florida, which Donald Trump won in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, is a red state of red states. Demings’ opponent would be incumbent U.S. Senator, Cuban-American Marco Rubio, who has been increasingly unpopular on the national stage as the once former Trump critic, now has fallen squarely in line with Trump’s Big Lie, and the GOP’s lurch to the far right of American politics.
The question on the table for Demings is can she win? The answer is complicated. But, I give her pretty good odds if she can do the following:
- Demings can run a national campaign and raise millions (which she will need) by painting both Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rubio as “far-right extremists” in a red state that is demographically purple and is home to former president Trump.
- Demings has national name recognition, due to her work as a House impeachment manager, and as a possible Biden VP pick. This means she has statewide name recognition in the large, diverse state of Florida.
- Demings was a police officer for almost three decades, something that is huge with the Republican base and swing voters in Florida — Rubio will not be able to paint her as a radical, Black Lives Matter activist and against the police.
- Demings will need to win women over in Florida in huge numbers, and she must court Latino and Cuban communities early and often to offset Rubio’s predictable socialism rhetoric.
- Lastly, Demings has to go on the offense and stay there about voting rights, and what DeSantis, Rubio and company are doing to American democracy. She will need a massive GOTV strategy in an off-year cycle — with Trump voters being highly motivated to regain the U.S. House and Senate.
All of that being said, a Black woman running for the U.S. Senate is an uphill climb under the best of circumstances. If Demings can clear the primary field on her side of the aisle, raise big money early, and start to define herself in TV ads and mailings, she has a real shot at unseating the lethargic, jokester, wanna-be-Twitter preacher Rubio from the seat that he wasn’t sure he really wanted back in 2016.
Rubio was once seen as a rising star in the national GOP along with former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and others. He is now seen as a Trump sycophant who has lost his shine, and may face a tough re-election in 2022.
Bottom line, Demings has all the right stuff to pull off an upset in a lean red state (but is really purple) and that appears to be pretty beholden to Trump. Time will tell and we will see, but my money is literally on Val Demings the day she makes it official.
Sophia A. Nelson is a contributing editor for theGrio.
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