South Floridians, especially those in Miami-Dade, have just won a front-row seat to what is expected to be one of the most heated Senate races in the country in the 2022 midterms — the state’s senior Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami vs. Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, who just announced her candidacy or Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. And that’s just so far.
Not just party politics and philosophy will come into play, but also gender, race, ethnicity, geography and even age will likely be points of attack for both sides.
In other words, this race will have everything — and Miami-Dade voters will be smack in the middle of it all.
Russell, like Demings, a Democrat, announced that he, too, wants to challenge Rubio. Russell is not the Democratic Party’s anointed candidate, Demings is, but in a race pitting a Hispanic man and a Black woman, Russell can still make a stand in the race at this point.
For now, the race is really about Rubio and Demings, and we suspect it’s going to be rough and tumble.
As the area’s highest-ranking Republican, Rubio, 50, is the hometown guy who began his political career on the West Miami commission. His main local office is in Doral.
The Cuban American ran for president in 2016, but went from promising candidate to ridicule when fellow candidate Donald Trump tagged with the “Little Marco” moniker. He dropped out after coming in second to Trump in the Florida primary. And in what seems to be a long, long time ago — 2013 — Time magazine labeled him the savior of the Republican Party. Conservatives love him, liberals not so much. He has been endorsed by former President Trump.
In the other corner, Demings, 64, is a former Orlando police chief who has served her Central Florida district since 2017. She’s politically hot. She was one of seven impeachment managers who argued the case against Trump during his 2020 trial in the Senate. Then she was on President Biden’s short list of potential VPs before he settled on Kamala Harris. Demings is viewed as an up-and-coming Democratic darling.
Battling it out
We’ve got an early glimpse of how the mudslinging will go down — and that’s pretty much like the races in the 2020 cycle where Republicans labeled Democrats socialists. Linking them to the policies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was another tactic.
Ground Zero for such attacks was Miami-Dade, where Democratic incumbents U.S. Reps Donna Shalala and Debbie Murcasel-Powell were defeated by Republicans Maria Elvira Salazar and then-Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Rubio and Demings both have interesting origin stories.
Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants and grew up in Miami-Dade’s exile community. He traditionally denounces communism and the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia and China. In a Twitter post, Rubio called Demings “a far-left Democrat” and a “do-nothing member of the House” who has not passed any significant legislation.
In her announcement speech, Demings described how she grew up poor in Jacksonville: “My father was a janitor and my mother was a maid,” she said. She said she will serve everyone
In the next 18 months, Floridians will see those stories stretched every which way. Game on!