Florida Democratic Senate nominee Val Demings says she can't be criticized on crime because she is "the police." Sunshine State sheriffs say that's ridiculous.
As a former Orlando police chief, Demings says she's inherently immune to attacks from Florida's law enforcement community: "I don't just support the police. I am the police," the Democrat said during an Aug. 17 interview. Roughly a week later, active Florida sheriffs are ridiculing that comment.
Marion County sheriff Billy Woods told the Washington Free Beacon Demings "uses her title as chief to further her political agenda" but "certainly doesn't use it to back law enforcement when she votes," a move Woods called "shameful." Brevard County sheriff Wayne Ivey, meanwhile, said Demings "took an oath to protect and serve, an oath she somehow forgot when she went to Washington and decided to vote with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time." And for Bradford County sheriff Gordon Smith, Demings has made clear during her "six years in Washington" that she "is no longer the police and didn't have our backs when it counted most."
"As a law enforcement officer, I made a promise to my community to protect and serve," Smith said. "Our representatives in Washington promise to support us in that mission, but Val Demings has failed to live up to that promise."
Demings did not return a request for comment. The barrage of attacks from Florida sheriffs will no doubt weaken the moderate, tough-on-crime persona she's attempted to place at the center of her campaign as she runs in a state that backed former president Donald Trump by 4 points in 2020. Demings's campaign site, for example, calls the Democrat a "no-nonsense, tough-on-crime leader who knows how to keep our communities safe." But Demings's opponent, Republican senator Marco Rubio, has secured endorsements from 56 of Florida's 66 sheriffs, as well as the state's Fraternal Order of Police and Police Benevolent Association.
In addition to her "I am the police" comment, Demings has dismissed those endorsements by arguing that 85 percent of Florida sheriffs are "playing political games" by backing Rubio. In turn, some of those sheriffs say Demings herself played politics when she emerged as one of her party's top voices on police reform following George Floyd's death in the summer of 2020, which came as she underwent formal interviews to become President Joe Biden's vice president.
At that time, Demings refused to condemn the movement to defund police—in fact, she went as far as to defend the Minneapolis City Council the day after its far-left activist members pledged to "end policing as we know it" during a June 7 "DEFUND POLICE" rally in the city's Powderhorn Park. The council and its anti-police activist allies, Demings said during a CBS interview, would "come out with a plan" for a new policing system that would "keep Minneapolis safe but also bring the community and the police together in a much needed and long overdue way." Days later, the council voted unanimously to eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department.
"Val Demings chose to play party politics instead of defending our men and women in blue," Florida Fraternal Order of Police president Steve Zona told the Free Beacon. "Demings shouldn't be going around saying she is the police when she hasn't been for over a decade and has failed to represent the needs of law enforcement in Washington."
Demings on Tuesday easily emerged from her primary race, securing 84 percent of the vote. Rubio ran unopposed in his own primary contest, and the pair will now face off in November. Rubio has raised $38 million to Demings's $48 million as of Aug. 3, though the Republican does hold a roughly $6 million cash-on-hand advantage.