Florida Senate showdown: Rubio takes aim at former police chief Demings over crime

Florida Senate showdown: Rubio takes aim at former police chief Demings over crime

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EXCLUSIVE – Rep. Val Deming’s three decades in law enforcement are not preventing GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida from criticizing his likely 2022 Democratic challenger over the issue of crime.

Rubio — at a campaign event where he landed the endorsement of sheriffs from 55 of Florida’s 67 counties, and in an exclusive interview with Fox News on Monday — took aim at the Democratic representative, who rose through the ranks to become Orlando’s first female police chief, calling Deming’s past criticism of law enforcement “especially sickening.”

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Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County, speaking at the campaign event in Jacksonville, emphasized that the sheriffs were backing Rubio’s re-election bid because “he has always stood with us, our deputies, and our profession. 

“The other candidate in this race, however, Val Demings, turned her back on her profession as she stood with the soft on crime crowd in Washington D.C., and in doing so put our citizens and our law enforcement officers at risk,” Ivey charged.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) lands the endorsement of sheriffs from 55 of Florida's 67 counties, at a campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida on Jan. 23, 2022

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) lands the endorsement of sheriffs from 55 of Florida’s 67 counties, at a campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida on Jan. 23, 2022

Coming in front of the microphones a few minutes later, Rubio once again described Demings, the clear front-runner in Florida’s August Democratic primary, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “hand-picked candidate for Senate.”

Demings “should know better,” he said. 

“It’s even worse when someone who knows better and should know better decides to align themselves with this effort to call into question the work that law enforcement is doing,” he added, pointing to “the way she has voted for not deporting criminal aliens that are in this country.”

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“There are plenty of people around this country that would like to see Florida become like California, New York, or some of these other places that have lost their mind and become deranged,” Rubio argued.

Asked to explain his “deranged” comment in his Fox News interview, Rubio said: “You have places where local officials have undermined law enforcement and excused criminality, and the result is a violent crime wave that swept these places. So that’s deranged level of government as far as I’m concerned.”

Rubio criticized Demings, who was seriously considered two years ago as Joe Biden’s running mate. 

“When she decided she wanted to be vice president and tried to impress the Biden people, she chose to begin to attack law enforcement,” he said.

Representative Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.

Representative Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rubio once again took aim at Demings for her 2020 comment regarding a proposal — which a year later was defeated — to defund and transform the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer. And he criticized Demings for her past support for overhauling qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers but that critics charge shields law enforcement from accountability.

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“When someone uses their former service in uniform with a badge as the foundation to give them the credibility to say these things, it’s incredibly damaging,” Rubio argued in the interview.

Demings, responding to Rubio’s attacks, told Fox News in a statement: “Unlike lifelong politician Marco Rubio, I have an actual record of fighting crime and making our communities safer.”

“As Orlando chief of police, I worked with my fellow officers to bring down violent crime by 40%,” she said. “It’s shameful that lifelong politician Marco Rubio dare question my commitment to the men and women I served with for 27 years. These attacks are shameless, but I would expect nothing less than a career politician to play the only game he knows: politics,” Demings charged.

Demings’ campaign noted that the three-term congresswoman has voted for tougher penalties on illegal immigration, as well as to support border security agents and operations. 

Her team pointed out that Demings was one of only 24 Democrats in 2017 to vote in favor of “Kate’s Law,” a bill to increase penalties for undocumented migrants who reentered the U.S. after deportation, and spotlighted that she broke with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2019 and joined with Republicans in voting against an amendment pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that would have prohibited the president from using funds to detain immigrants in Defense Department facilities. 

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The Senate race in Florida is one of around a dozen races across the country that may ultimately decide whether the Democrats retain a razor-thin majority in November’s midterm elections. And it is also shaping up to be one of this year’s most expensive Senate showdowns.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Through the end of October, Demings had the slight fundraising edge: $14 million to Rubio’s $12 million.

“We’re going to be out-raised, and we’ve expected that from the very beginning,” Rubio acknowledged.

“But this is not a fundraising competition — it’s an election,” the two-term senator emphasized. “We have to have the resources to get our message out, and I believe that if people are supporting us, we will.”

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“Our goal is to have enough money to tell my story,” he said. “Over the last five years, I’ve achieved more in the U.S. Senate than anyone who’s occupied that position over a five-year period from Florida. None of that’s received any coverage.”

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