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When Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings speaks about security, criminal justice, or even government ethics and behavior, people tune in.
The congresswoman is a retired career police officer and former Police Chief in Orlando, one of a handful of professions that bring instant credibility and respect for certain issues. She has used that gravitas well, plus her own force of personality, a street cop’s toughness, in her first three years in Congress.
That helps makes Val Demings, a second-term Democrat representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District covering western Orange County, the fifth most powerful elected official in the Florida Politics Central Florida 25 most Powerful Politicians survey.
Demings is far more progressive on many issues than her fellow Central Florida Democrats, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, and more likely to craft her own, more strident way without them on some of the more divisive issues in American politics.
Consequently, she has emerged on the forefront nationally in matters ranging from impeachment calls for President Donald Trump to gun violence and homeland security.
But Demings also can pull off the Harley-riding, gun-toting, marathon-running, proud grandma image that cautions opponents: She is no wild-eyed liberal and she shouldn’t be messed with.
And it doesn’t hurt that she’s married to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who’s a former Sheriff and tough cookie himself.
She’s also in as safe a district as Democrats have in Florida, as CD 10 not only is strongly Democratic, with a 13-point voter registration advantage over Republicans, but the Demingses are both enormously popular there.
“Congresswoman Demings is a trailblazer. Like her husband, Jerry, she spent her early professional years patrolling the streets of Orlando helping to keep our community safe. And when her number was called to serve as police chief, she did not hesitate to answer the call,” said Derek Bruce, managing shareholder at Gunster in Orlando. “It mattered little to her that she would be the first woman to serve in that role. Her leadership qualities and her toughness made her a natural fit for one of the most difficult and visible jobs in Central Florida.
“When she was elected in 2016 to Congress, few on the national stage foresaw how quickly she would make her presence known in Washington, DC. Yet those of us who watched Val Demings’ rise could have predicted she would be one of the newcomers to make an immediate impact,” Bruce continued. “Look for her to play prominently in the Democrats efforts to wrest the White House from Republicans and to keep the House of Representatives in Democratic Party control.”
Demings was an early leader of the Democrats’ “resistance” movement against Trump, and became the first Florida Democrat to call for impeachment hearings for Trump, and quickly entered a national spotlight on that issue.
As a member of both the House Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on the Judiciary, she’s also one of only two members of the U.S. House of Representatives who has read the full, completely unredacted Russia elections interference probe report from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The outspoken retired big-city Police Chief has had several prominent moments this spring and summer in nationally televised hearings of the Judiciary Committee. Those are likely to continue occurring as that committee takes the Democrats’ lead in pressing Trump and his administration in what can be described as pre-impeachment hearings.
She has also used her background and influence in her position on the House Committee on Homeland Security in several ways to specifically help Orlando.
Demings led congressional efforts to get the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to change its decision-making process in selecting cities that need extra federal protection from terrorism. Orlando once received federal anti-terrorism grants but fell out of the program a few years ago. Demings led the effort to convince the department that Orlando and other mid-sized cities like San Antonio, Texas, that have significant tourism are major targets. The result has been millions of dollars in grants to Orlando law enforcement agencies.
A former commander of the police unit at Orlando International Airport, Demings led efforts to get Homeland Security to dedicate more inspectors to that airport, easing an overcrowding crunch at security lines and averting a showdown between that federal department and the airport governing board, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Demings also has been a leading critic of the Trump administration’s tactic of temporarily transferring federal customs and border patrol agents from airports, notably Orlando, to the southwest border.