EXCLUSIVE: Some former law enforcement colleagues of Rep. Val Demings emphasize that the former Orlando police chief "would never defund the police" in a new ad by the Democratic congresswoman who’s challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in November’s midterm elections.
The digital spot, which was shared first with Fox News on Thursday, is the latest effort by Demings to aggressively push back on Rubio’s more than yearlong effort to question her support for police funding, with the issue of crime and law enforcement center stage in the high profile, high stakes, and expensive Florida Senate race.
"The attacks towards Chief Demings about defunding the police — I can’t help but chuckle," retired lieutenant Barbara Jones said in the ad. "No Chief of Police or ex-Chief of Police wants to defund the police."
And Orange County Sheriff John Mina emphasized "I’ve known Chief Demings for decades. She’s never changed, she’s the same person that I know as Chief of Police. You cannot question her commitment to public safety."
The release of the spot, which Demings team tells Fox News will run statewide and is part of the campaign’s on-going eight-figure ad blitz, comes two weeks after Rubio’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a TV spot that’s running in a handful of Florida media markets which showcases several sheriffs criticizing the congresswoman for voting in line with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"Maybe she used to be a cop, but in Washington, Val Demings is just another radical rubber stamp," one of the sheriff charged in the Rubio/NRSC commercial.
Rubio, who’s running for a third six-year term, has repeatedly targeted Demings for her 2020 comment regarding a proposal — which a year later was defeated — to defund and transform the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer.
He’s also criticized Demings for her past support for overhauling qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers against lawsuits over what they do on the beat, but that critics claim shields law enforcement from accountability. Demings backed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which included provisions that would strip police of qualified immunity. The measure passed the Democratic controlled House by party lines but later died in the Senate.
Retired detective Eddie Lopez, reacting to last month’s Rubio ad, said in the new Demings spot "I thought it was a joke because I knew for a fact she would never defund the police. I’ve seen her move up the ranks all the way to the Chief of Police."
And retired police officer Renita Osselyn urged Rubio to "keep your opinions to yourself. Until you cross that line and become a police officer, you have no right."
Demings, who spent nearly three decades in law enforcement and who rose through the ranks to become Orlando’s first female police chief, spotlighted her crime fighting resume in a commercial her campaign launched in June.
"In the Senate I’ll protect Florida from bad ideas like defunding the police. That’s just crazy," she emphasized in the ad. "Florida - it’s time to send a cop on the beat to the Senate.
While Rubio enjoys an upper single-digit lead in an average of the most recent public opinion polls, Demings has outraised the incumbent. Her $12.5 million haul in the April-June second quarter of 2022 fundraising dwarfed the $4.5 million the senator brought in during the same three-month period.
And Demings has dipped into her war chest, with her campaign noting that they spent $6 million during the second quarter to run TV ads. And three weeks ago Demings launched a spot criticizing Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate.
The Senate showdown between Rubio and Demings will likely end up being one of the most expensive this cycle.
Democrats face historical headwinds and a difficult political climate this cycle as they try to defend their razor-thin Senate majority in November. And Florida, once the top general election battleground state, has leaned red of late. The top nonpartisan political handicappers rate the Florida Senate race as lean Republican.