Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy and other Central Florida contenders want to unseat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

By: - May 21, 2021 7:00 am

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Credit: Shawn Thew, Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat once on the shortlist for vice president and a tough adversary during the U.S. House impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump, is signaling that she’ll take on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022.

Media outlets earlier this week posted stories about a Demings v. Rubio race, and Demings tweeted: “I know the stakes are too high for Republicans to stand in the way of getting things done for Floridians, which is why I’m seriously considering a run for the Senate.”

Demings was Orlando’s first female chief of police before winning Florida’s 10th Congressional seat in 2016.

But she’s part of a list of potential contenders from Central Florida trying to unseat Rubio, with political geography an element in the race.

Both of Florida’s current senators are Republicans and hail from the far southern end of the state, with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott in Naples on the Gulf side, and Rubio from Miami on the Atlantic side.

Prior to Scott winning a U.S. Senate seat in the 2018 election, the two senators were Rubio and Bill Nelson, who is from Central Florida. (Nelson is now the head of NASA.)

So far, other potential contenders for Rubio’s seat have ties to Central Florida, one of the state’s most populous areas, including the city of Orlando. The area is a major tourist hub that brings in billions for the state and employs thousands of workers.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-7th). Official photo.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who represents Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, hasn’t officially announced a run against Rubio. But the Axios news website reported that Murphy may announce her bid in early June.

Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected to Congress, winning the 7th District seat in the 2016 election. Before she was elected to Congress, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor. She also served as a national security specialist in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, according to U.S. House bio.

Becca Tieder, a political activist who has worked with Ruth’s List, which endorses and helps recruit progressive Democratic pro-choice women, told the Phoenix that both women have a shot at Rubio’s seat and either could when the race.

“I think he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been and those women are both smart and strong,” she told the Phoenix. “If both women toss their names in the hat, we will see Florida politics at its best.”

Another prominent Central Florida woman had been considering a race against Rubio — Aramis Ayala, a former state attorney.

She told her Twitter followers on May 3 that she was interested in running for the U.S. Senate. But she’s now changed course following the the news of Demings’ intention to go up against Rubio, according to POLITICO.

Meanwhile, another potential candidate in the mix is former U.S. Representative Alan Grayson. In 2019, he released a book called High Crimes: The Impeachment of Donald Trump.

On May 4, he tweeted his interest in the seat: “I’m looking at running against Marco Rubio.  The Senate needs more progressive champions.”

This Monday, he told Orlando-based Spectrum News that he’s seeing if there’s enough support for his run.

“So far, the signs are good,” he told Spectrum.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.