With Val Demings looking at Senate run, Aramis Ayala now eyes her congressional seat
As Val Demings looks to move up, so does Aramis Ayala.

Demings Ayala 5.19.21
The game of political musical chairs in Central Florida continues.

With Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings now clearly positioning herself for a 2022 U.S. Senate bid, Democrat Aramis Ayala might swap her ambition from the Senate to Demings’ Orlando-based House seat.

Ayala, Orlando’s former State Attorney, put out a video earlier this month indicating she is exploring a campaign for the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. But that was before widespread reports this week that Demings is likely to run in that election.

In a new statement released Wednesday, Ayala praises Demings and suggests Demings’ Florida’s 10th Congressional District will need “a progressive champion” who can build on Demings’ work.

“Congresswoman Demings is a focused and impactful leader for the people of Florida, and I am excited to see her next steps as an unapologetic champion for women, and all women of color, who step up on behalf of their community,” Ayala said in a written statement. “I’ve had some very productive discussions with leaders in our community, around the state, and nationally, about the best way to serve. There will be a strong need for a progressive champion who can build on Congresswoman Demings’ work in Congress and advocate for Florida’s 10th District.

“I will be making an announcement soon — but one thing is clear: Floridians are yearning for bold ideas and a fresh start at every level of the ballot,” she added.

Thus the Democrats continue playing musical chairs, particularly in Central Florida, as potential candidates get closer to announcing runs without anyone actually committing yet.

Demings initially put out feelers regarding a run for either the Senate or Governor against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. But she has sent strong signals this week that she’ll probably run for the Senate instead.

Ayala had announced her interest in the Senate, and now seems interested in Demings’ CD 10 seat.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, also has been seriously exploring a Senate run. She seems firm on that with or without competition from Demings, a neighbor and close ally in Congress.

Democratic former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Windermere also has been exploring a Senate run.

Former congressional candidate Allen Ellison of Wauchula has filed and declared his intention to run, but he has lost both his congressional elections by wide margins.

CD 10 also is likely to attract a scrum of Democrats, whether or not Ayala pursues it. Sen. Randolph Bracy is widely discussed as a candidate. So is Rep. Geraldine Thompson, who ran in 2016, losing in the primary to Demings. Former Lieutenant Governor candidate Chris King of Winter Park is considered a potential Democratic congressional candidate, for either Murphy’s Florida’s 7th Congressional District, or CD 10. There even has been speculation that Demings’ husband, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, could run to succeed her in the House.

CD 10 covers western Orange County. It includes many of Central Florida’s larger African American communities and some of its key suburbs, such as Windermere and Apopka.

However, the 2021 redistricting is likely to change CD 10 boundaries and character, so there’s no telling what it could be like for the 2022 election. The same is true of Murphy’s CD 7, which covers parts of central and northern Orange and all of Seminole County.

Ayala was a reforming, yet controversial, State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties who chose not to run for reelection last year. Most of the controversy swirled around her opposition to the death penalty. The 2017 fight she put up to abolish capital punishment prosecutions in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit made her a national figure among progressive Democrats — and a lightning rod for criticism, largely among Republicans, though not exclusively.

Many of her other criminal justice reforms were lost in the hyper-political outcry to her death penalty position. But there were several, including issues of juvenile justice, bail, nonviolent crimes, and domestic violence, among others.

In the 2018 election cycle, she also found that she was a popular get for progressive Democrats seeking office. Among her work on behalf of other candidates, she drew a champion’s ovation when she gave a warmup speech during former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s run for Governor.

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]


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