Florida Senate showdown: Demings uses new ad to push back on Rubio’s ‘police defunding’ attacks
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EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Val Demings’ former police colleagues stress the former Orlando police chief would “never defund the police” in a new ad from the Democratic congresswoman challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the mid-term elections in November.
The digital spot, which was first shared with Fox News on Thursday, is Demings’ latest effort to aggressively push back on Rubio’s more than year-long effort to question his support for police funding, with the crime and law enforcement center stage. high profile, high stakes and expensive Florida Senate race.
“The attacks on Chief Demings about defunding the police, I can’t help but laugh,” retired Lt. Barbara Jones said in the announcement. “No police chief or former police chief wants to defund the police.”
And Orange County Sheriff John Mina stood out “I have known Chief Demings for decades. He’s never changed, he’s the same person I know as a police chief. You can’t question their commitment to public safety.”
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The launch of the spot, which Demings’ team tells Fox News will run statewide and is part of the campaign’s ongoing eight-figure advertising blitz, comes two weeks after Rubio’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a television spot airing in a handful of Florida media markets showing several sheriffs criticizing the congresswoman for voting in line with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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“He may have been a cop before, but in Washington, Val Demings is just another radical rubber stamp,” charged one of the sheriffs in the Rubio/NRSC ad.
Rubio, who is running for a third six-year term, has repeatedly targeted Demings for his 2020 comment on a proposal, which was defeated a year later, to defund and transform the Minneapolis, Minn., police department in the wake of the murder of George. Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer.
He has also criticized Demings for his past support for revising qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from beating suits but that critics say shields law enforcement from liability. Demings supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which included provisions that would strip police of qualified immunity. The measure passed the Democratic-controlled House along party lines, but then died in the Senate.
Retired detective Eddie Lopez, reacting to Rubio’s announcement last month, said in Demings’ new spot, “I thought it was a joke because I knew for a fact that he would never defund the police. I’ve seen him rise from range all the way. to the head of the police.”
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And retired police officer Renita Osselyn urged Rubio to “keep your opinions to yourself. Until you cross that line and become a police officer, you have no rights.”
Demings, who spent nearly three decades in law enforcement and rose to become Orlando’s first female police chief, highlighted her crime-fighting resume in a commercial that launch their campaign in June.
“In the Senate I will protect Florida from bad ideas like defunding the police. This is crazy,” he stressed in the announcement. “Florida: Time to send a cop to the Senate.
While Rubio enjoys an upper single-digit lead in an average of the most recent public opinion polls, Demings has overtaken the incumbent. His collection of $12.5 million in the second quarter of April-June 2022 dwarfed the $4.5 million the senator brought in during the same three-month period.
And Demings has dipped into his war chest, with his campaign noting that they spent $6 million in the second quarter to run TV ads. And three weeks ago Demings released a spot criticizing Rubio’s Senate attendance record.
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The Senate showdown between Rubio and Demings will likely end up being one of the most expensive of this cycle.
Democrats face historic headwinds and a difficult political climate this cycle as they try to defend their Senate majority in November. And Florida, once the main battleground state in the general election, has been tilting lately. Leading nonpartisan political handicappers consider Florida’s Senate race a lean Republican one.