Responding to increasing scuttlebutt that Rep. Val Demings is talking to people about a possible gubernatorial or U.S. Senate run in 2022, a spokesperson confirmed Thursday that the Orlando Democrat is exploring options.
“I am strongly considering a statewide race and grateful for the countless messages of support and encouragement that I have received from people in every part of Florida,” Demings said in a written statement to Florida Politics.
On Thursday a spokesperson offered a similar statement, saying Demings was exploring her options.
Both statements follows reports that Demings has been talking lately with donors, a potential campaign manager, a potential campaign finance director, digital campaign firms, and state lawmakers, about a possible gubernatorial campaign to challenge the reelection of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Demings also has been mentioned as a possible U.S. Senate candidate to challenge the 2022 reelection of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
That path seems to be taken right now by her Winter Park colleague, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.
“Val Demings is the candidate Democrats need now,” said one top-rank Democratic fundraiser who has met with Demings to discuss a 2022 bid. “She is a force of nature, whose grit and passion has captured the national spotlight even getting her on the shortlist for VP. She is from the coveted I-4 corridor, has the power to rebuild the party and will unabashedly challenge DeSantis.”
Demings is coming off a two-year run in which her national standing has skyrocketed.
As a leading congressional critic of former President Donald Trump, she was a key player in his first impeachment, first in committee hearings, then as a House impeachment manager. As a former Orlando Police Chief, she has drawn attention as an insider’s advocate of law enforcement reform. Last summer she was being widely discussed as a potential running mate to now-President Joe Biden.
Just this week, she had yet another national media moment. On Tuesday she took on Republican firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in a way that both expressed Demings strong ties to law enforcement while also providing support for progressives’ desires for law enforcement reform. The exchange was widely replayed by national media and on social media.
“Her background as a police chief prepares her to talk about two of the most urgent issues facing the country: Systemic racism and police reform,” said a prominent Democratic lobbyist. “Her story has captured the imagination of America and she is the best shot for Democrats to win back the Governor’s Mansion.”
The latest nugget about Demings is that she has brought on Zack Carroll, who managed the 2020 South Carolina U.S.Senate campaign of now DNC Chair Jaime Harrison.
Demings is serving her third term in Congress in a safe district. She’s a former Orlando Police Chief. She is married to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, giving her a strong base of support in Central Florida.
He, too, has been prodded by some supporters to consider a gubernatorial run, though he has not been reported making any moves.
The field of Democrats considering taking on DeSantis in 2022 is thin and tentative so far, with no major Democratic candidates declaring yet.
Certainly, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tops the list of other Democrats. She has taken seemingly every opportunity to be the state’s leading DeSantis’ critic.
Others, including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and state Sens. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee and Annette Taddeo of Miami have reportedly been exploring prospects as well.
Many Central Florida political observers expect that if Demings were to run for Governor, Bracy would run for her seat in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.
Redistricting is likely to significantly redraw that district, as well as Murphy’s adjacent Florida’s 7th Congressional District and also is likely to add a new Central Florida seat. So it’s unclear who might wind up in which district and which party might have advantages.