Val Demings, Prosecutor in Trump's First Impeachment Trial, Challenging Marco Rubio for Senate in Florida

Democratic Representative Val Demings of Florida, an impeachment manager in then-President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, will try to unseat GOP Senator Marco Rubio in 2022, according to two people with knowledge of her plans, the Associated Press reported. A Demings-Rubio race could determine control of the Senate.

Demings, who previously considered running for governor, was a leading candidate for Joe Biden's running mate in the 2020 presidential race. Rubio was first elected as a Florida senator in 2010 and reelected in 2016.

Demings was Orlando's first female police chief for three and a half years and was first elected to Congress in 2016. The police force she led faced controversy over allegations of excessive force, but those who defended her said that by the time she retired violent crime was down in Orlando by 40 percent.

Rep. Val Demings
U.S. Representative Val Demings speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 29, 2020. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Demings' plans to challenge Rubio, first reported by Politico, will give Democrats a boost in a competitive 2022 race.

The move ends mounting speculation over the congresswoman's political future. In focusing on the Senate instead of a run for governor, Demings could quickly become a front-runner among Democrats and tap into a national network of fundraisers who could help finance what will likely be an expensive campaign.

First elected to Congress to represent a district near Orlando, the 64-year-old Demings' national profile has rapidly expanded, from being an impeachment manager to serving as a police chief. She is particularly appealing to some Democrats for her experience as a Black woman with a background in law enforcement.

While Demings' entrance in the race will attract attention, Rubio is still a formidable candidate. Elected during the tea party wave of 2010, he easily won reelection. After Florida twice backing Barack Obama, the state swung to Trump in 2016. Trump added to his margin last year, carrying the state by more than 3 percentage points and making inroads with some Latino voters, who dominate politics in Florida's southern tip.

And Demings' tenure as Orlando's first female police chief could become a vulnerability in a primary where progressive voters leery of law enforcement could be key.

Demings led a police force that has grappled with a long record of excessive-force allegations and calls for reforms and more transparency for years before, during and after her tenure, which ended in 2011.

From 2010 to 2014, the police department faced at least 47 lawsuits against its officers and paid out more than $3.3 million in damages, according to an investigation by local news station WFTV.

And an Orlando Sentinel investigation covering the same period found that Orlando officers used force in 5.6 percent of arrests—more than twice the rate of some other police agencies—and used force disproportionately against Black suspects.