It's much harder to be a politician than a police officer—at least if you ask Florida's Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings.
"You know, after 27 years as a law enforcement officer, there's no doubt that's a tough job, that's a hard job, no doubt about it," said Demings, a former Orlando police chief. "But being in elected office—that's a whole 'nother level, y'all."
Demings's remarks came at a rally Saturday in Pensacola and are likely to anger Florida's law enforcement community, particularly given that Demings enjoys an array of perks as a congresswoman that she did not receive as a police officer.
Demings's congressional salary, for example, sits at $174,000, allowing the Democrat to own a Washington, D.C., condo in addition to her Florida residence. Even after state cops in August received their first pay raise in years, the average state-level officer in Florida earns just under $60,500 a year. Demings's job as a congresswoman also took the Democrat and her husband to Israel for a policy seminar in 2017, a trip that cost nearly $27,000. And in 2021, zero members of Congress died in the line of duty, compared to 52 Florida law enforcement officers.
"For congresswoman Demings to say that sitting around in Washington and voting with [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi 100 percent of the time is a harder job than what we do every day is just despicable," Marion County sheriff Billy Woods told the Washington Free Beacon. "It proves once and for all that she's completely abandoned the law enforcement community and turned into a creature of the swamp."
Demings, whose campaign did not return a request for comment, has worked to unseat Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio in large part by running on her background as a police chief. Demings in 2007 "made history when she was appointed to serve as [Orlando's] first female Chief of Police," her campaign site states, and the Democrat often touts that position to prove she's a "no-nonsense, tough-on-crime leader who knows how to keep our communities safe." In August, Demings went as far as to say she's inherently immune to criticism from Florida's law enforcement community because she is "the police." "I don't just support the police. I am the police," the Democrat said.
But Rubio has landed the overwhelming majority of law enforcement endorsements. Fifty-six of Florida's 66 sheriffs back Rubio, as do the state's Fraternal Order of Police and Police Benevolent Association. Demings has dismissed those endorsements by arguing that 85 percent of Sunshine State sheriffs are "playing political games" by backing Rubio, a remark that some of those sheriffs quickly rebuked.
"Like myself and thousands of other law enforcement officers, Val Demings took an oath to protect and serve—an oath she somehow forgot when she got to Washington and decided to vote with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time," Brevard County sheriff Wayne Ivey told the Free Beacon in August. "After six years in Washington, it's clear that Val is no longer the police and didn't have our backs when it counted most," Bradford County sheriff Gordon Smith added at the time.
Demings emerged from her August primary race with 84 percent of the vote and will face Rubio at the polls in November. The Democrat has raised $65.5 million to Rubio's $44.5 million as of Sept. 30, though Rubio holds a $3 million cash-on-hand advantage.