(The Hill) – Rep. Val Demings is projected to have coasted to victory on Tuesday in Florida’s Democratic Senate primary and will take on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in November.
Demings, a former Orlando police chief who first won her House seat in 2016, faced little serious opposition in the Democratic primary, giving her an easy path to the nomination.
The big question now is whether Demings will be able to flip control of a Senate seat in a state that has trended increasingly toward Republicans in recent years.
While Democrats see her as one of their best Senate recruits of the 2022 midterm cycle, Rubio has emerged from tough races before and has a history of outperforming other Republicans in Democrat-heavy Miami-Dade County, where he’s from. Florida Democrats have also struggled in recent years to fix a crumbling party infrastructure.
Still, both Democrats and Republicans say that the race is far from a lock for Rubio. For one, Florida has a history of ultra-close statewide elections, and Demings has proven to be a prolific fundraiser capable of outpacing her Republican rival. She brought in an eye-catching $12.2 million in the second quarter of the year.
She’s also sought to counter Republican attacks that she’s soft on crime and supports defunding the police by pointing to her career in law enforcement.
The Florida Senate race has so far attracted less national attention than some of the other marquee matchups this year, like the Senate contests in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
But Democrats also see it as a potential pickup opportunity that could bolster their position at a time when their Senate majority is on the line. The upper chamber is split 50-50 and a net loss of even one Democratic seat this year would hand control of the Senate to the GOP.
Early polling also suggests that Demings may have a fighting chance against Rubio. A recent survey from the University of North Florida found Demings leading Rubio in a head-to-head matchup 48 percent to 44 percent.