Val Demings for Vice President? Idea being pushed

Val Demings
Could Val Demings' role as House impeachment manager make her a hot Democratic VEEP prospect?

Congresswoman Val Demmings has a high profile stage right now in Congress, a great personal back story, an impressive professional background, preacher-esque oratory skills, a reputation for a sharp, no-nonsense, strategic and tactical intellect, a lifelong commitment to law and order and enormous popularity back home.

Oh. And she’s black. And a woman.

And she’s from a critical swing state worth 29 electoral votes in an area considered one of the state’s most crucial voting blocs.

Demings has become a political project for former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin, who is using as many of her party strings as she can to get Demings into the national conversation as a vice presidential candidate. And that conversation appears to be starting already, without Chapin’s efforts.

Demings, Chapin is telling everyone who’ll listen, could be a difference maker as running mate for former Vice President Joe Biden, for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, or for any of the potential Democratic presidential nominees.

“Think of what she could do for Democrats in Florida, purple Florida,” Chapin said. “She’s smart. She’s got a great story. She’s got a great professional background that is unimpeachable. She’s got a husband who everybody likes.”

Yet the former Orlando police chief and career police officer has only has three years in Congress, with limited exposure on a wide range of national issues, notably foreign affairs. But Chapin is not dissuaded. She points to another rising African American woman Democrat, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, and contends Demings is better, with more experience, more election success, and less baggage.

Chapin expressed frustration that Abrams seemed to show up on a lot of lists of potential Democratic vice presidential candidates, while Demings, so far, does not.

That is already changing.

On Wednesday, Demings was named as one of the House of Representatives impeachment managers, the only one of seven managers who is not a lawyer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited Demings’ role as a member of both of the House’s main impeachment committees, Intelligence and Judiciary, and her background in law enforcement. Pelosi did not mention, though others quickly did, that Demings often sparkled in the spotlights of those committees hearings, pressing witnesses hard and delivering significant responses.

“I think Val Demings is a bonafide candidate for Vice President of the United States,” former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, observed as MSNBC commentators mulled Pelosi’s picks on Wednesday.

Demings’ role as impeachment manager starting next week will put her under an even bigger spotlight, an international one. Will it be an audition opportunity for her to be considered by Biden, Buttigieg, or whomever else emerges from the Democratic primaries including U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or one of the others?

“Look at how much attention she had,” Chapin said of the impeachment hearings in the fall. “She handled herself beautifully.”

Demings, 62, is the daughter of a janitor and a maid in Jacksonville, and she grew up the way they wanted. After earning a degree in criminology from Florida State University in 1979, she became a social worker, and then a street cop in Orlando in 1983. She worked her way up through the ranks, and became the Orlando Police Department’s first female African-American chief in 2007.

Demings came to now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s attention, who recruited her to run for Congress. Demings’ first attempt, in 2012, resulted in a  52-48 loss to Republican Dan Webster in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, then a fairly reliable Republican stronghold. She then ran for Orange County Mayor in 2014, yet mysteriously withdrew in mid-summer before the election. She later disclosed she dropped out of the race due to a health concern, but she has not revealed any details about the matter.

By 2016 redistricting had pushed Webster into neighboring Florida’s 11th Congressional District and 10 became an open, Democratic seat. With clear and strong backing from Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in Congress [including U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, then chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,] Demings ran again, first easily defeating a tough Democratic primary field, and then winning the general election in a landslide. She had no Republican opponent in the 2018 election.

In Congress she has drawn prime committee assignments that reflect her law enforcement background including the House Oversight and Government Reform in her first term, and Homeland Security, Judiciary, and Intelligence.

Largely viewed as a liberal, she has nonetheless avoided making much hay from divisive social issues, except for gun reform laws, which she addresses from a police officer’s perspective. She instead has focused mainly on her strengths, particularly in legislation dealing with law enforcement, airport security, and anti-terrorism as well as health care legislation, including passage of a bill to support Alzheimer’s disease research. She also pushed an anti-Russian interference bill, dubbed the Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, through the House, though it was never heard in the Senate. She’s also a member of the fairly moderate New Democrat Coalition.

Demings was one of the first members of Congress to start talking about impeaching Trump, which she began advocating in December, 2018. As a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, she has been particularly outspoken both in committees and in interviews and speeches about Trump and the Ukraine scandal. During the impeachment hearings, her pointed questioning helped win her a slot as one of the Democrats’ closing speakers in the Dec. 18 House floor impeachment proceedings.

Chapin, who served from 1990-’98 as Orange County Mayor [technically chairwoman, since the title was changed after she left office] remains a significant behind-the-scenes player in Central Florida Democratic politics. Chapin is someone who works with high-level players with national reach such as Charlie Gray, chair emeritus and a founding partner of GrayRobinson law firm, and John Morgan. And she’s urging them to push Demings’ name into campaigns’ inner circles.

It’s an easy sell so far, Chapin said.

“I think Val Demings is one of our great champions in the Democratic Party, not just in Florida but nationally,” said Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa, who stopped short of weighing in on her prospects as a Vice Presidential candidate.

In 2018, Demings’ husband Jerry Demings, then the Orange County Sheriff, became the first Democrat to win the Orange County Mayor’s office since Chapin left it.

For years now, the Demings have been Orlando’s biggest power couple and they’re both at new career high points right now. Yet both have potential for higher office. At some point, would one yield to the other’s position? Who would yield to whom? Or need they?

“Jerry says he is deeply, deeply interested in her future,” Chapin said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


8 comments

  • VOTE DEM 2020

    January 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Certainly a rapid up-and-coming Democrat – and a DEFINITE competitor for the VP job. AND – if she’s a VP to Biden – it’s almost certain he’ll be a one-term president – so she’ll have an inside track to run for President in 2024 at age 66! I do think, if either wants it, that Warren and Klobuchar will get first dibs on the VP slot – but each of them might prefer being real movers and shakers in a Democratic Senate. (?) Nevertheless – Best Wishes, Val! You make Democrats in Florida proud!

  • Janu

    January 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    “Demings was one of the first members of Congress to start talking about impeaching Trump, which she began advocating in December, 2018. As a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, she has been particularly outspoken both in committees and in interviews and speeches about Trump and the Ukraine scandal. During the impeachment hearings, her pointed questioning helped win her a slot as one of the Democrats’ closing speakers in the Dec. 18 House floor impeachment proceedings.”

    As a former Democrat voter turned Republican in 2016, anyone else notice her seething anger and obsession with removing Trump from office in the impeachment hearings? That’s why it is a great idea to put her on the Dem ballot, so Trump can win an historical electoral landslide in 2020. Thanks Dems for floating her as VP!

    • Bill

      January 22, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      Trump 2020

  • kim K

    January 16, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Perfect! she was one of the six Democrats who wanted President Trump impeached BEFORE he was sworn in LOL. They are all corrupt to the core and are poison to taxpayers. Be it Joe Biden, Sanders, Pete or Elizabeth Warren. They all follow the radical hyena’s Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Al Green, AOC, Talib, Pressley, Omar all are on the wrong side of history.

    Democrat-Socialist 2020 Platform & Goals:
    -Open Borders.
    -Sanctuary Cities.
    -Decriminalize illegal entry into our country.
    -De-fund & terminate Border Patrol & ICE.
    -Disarming Americans.
    -Massive tax increases.
    -End all deportations of illegal aliens (if you get here, you stay.)
    -Drivers licenses for illegal aliens.
    -Voting rights for non citizens.
    -Welfare & Food Stamps for illegal aliens. (Warren/Sanders)
    -Increase refugee’s from the third world.
    -Non citizens allowed to hold public office.
    -Socialism.
    -Weaken our Military.
    -Green new deal.
    -Free medicare care for all including non citizens (taxpayer funded)
    -Free college for all, including non citizens. (tax payer funded)
    -Reparations.
    -Late term abortions up to 9 months.
    -Opposed to ANY voter ID Laws.
    From the Democrat’s themselves. View their speeches / debates on youtube

    • Voncile

      January 16, 2020 at 10:53 pm

      Kim K, you nailed it!

  • Susan H

    January 17, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Dear John Kociuba,
    You sound so angry. Anger and hatred cloud judgment. Name-calling only discredits the name-caller.
    I hope that you find some peace.

  • paulette kennamer

    January 20, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Dem grooming in the works for her. Once they get you, they got you forever. What do they have on her now? What did they tell her to make her do what they want? Rubio was tainted soon after being elected. They don’t mess around and will either make you bend to them or else.

  • David

    January 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I’ve been posting Biden/Demings 2020 on blogs for several weeks now and sent the suggestion to Joe Biden’s campaign manager via the DNC. It came to me after the impeachment hearings-
    strongest Dem ticket for victory.

Comments are closed.


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