U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wins third term; Democrat Val Demings said it was ‘worth the fight’
U.S. Rep. Val Demings went into Tuesday’s election night determined to become the second woman from Florida elected to the U.S. Senate after about four decades. She fell short on that goal.
Instead, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio won a third term in the U.S. Senate, garnering about 58 percent of votes compared to 41 percent for Demings, based on about 85 percent of precincts reporting across the state.
“It’s great to be here in the red county of Miami-Dade!” Rubio said at his election event in Miami Tuesday evening.
“I was blessed to be born here and I was blessed that my parents lived 90 miles away from here because if they had gone anywhere else on this planet, there’s no way I would be standing on a stage like this tonight.”
While Demings didn’t gain enough votes to unseat incumbent GOP Rubio, the former Orlando police chief insisted that the fight is not over.
“That’s why I ran for the Senate because we can never stop striving to form that more perfect union,” Demings told the crowd at the Rosen Centre in Orlando Tuesday evening, during an election night watch event hosted by her campaign.
“I came tonight to tell you that it’s worth the fight. We did not get the result we wanted tonight,” Demings said. “We can never ever tire. We have much work to do to protect our fundamental constitutional rights. I know the election might be over, but that fight is not over.”
Demings said she spoke to Rubio following the election results. Both Demings and Rubio held election night events in Florida. Rubio’s was in Miami; Demings’ was in Orlando.
“As you all know, things did not quite turn out of the way we had hoped,” Demings said. “But that’s alright, I spoke with Senator Rubio and I congratulated him. And said to him that Florida is our home state, and please continue to work hard for the place we call home.”
Demings, a Democrat in Central Florida, was pushing to shatter the glass ceiling of politics by kicking out Rubio and capturing a female seat for Florida in the U.S. Senate.
Demings had launched an initiative to address issues surrounding Latino voters, a key voting bloc that could impact the U.S. Senate race in Florida and help her unseat a GOP incumbent who is Latino.
“To win, Val Demings needs turnout rates of young, Black, and Latino voters to be at a presidential election level,” Susan MacManus, professor emerita of politics at the University of South Florida, told the Florida Phoenix before the election results occurred. “These voters often don’t turn out at such high levels in a midterm election.”
Demings was traversing the state in hopes of attracting Hispanic voters, through what’s called Todos Con Demings, a Hispanic outreach coalition launched in April by her campaign. Hispanic voters are largely in South Florida, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections.
The Orlando Congresswoman also had traversed the campus of Florida A&M University during its homecoming celebration, speaking with potential Black voters and others who attended the events at the historically Black college in Tallahassee.
During Tuesday’s election event, Demings expressed her gratitude for her husband Jerry Demings, mayor of Orange County, as well as her family.
“To my family you know how I am. I love to talk about my family,” Demings said. “You are more precious to me than anything and I am grateful.”
She added: “No man or woman is an island unto themselves. My parents. … the maid and the janitor. I remember they use to go to work seven days a week. I can still see them coming home at the end of the day so tired. But they believed in the American dream.”
Demings has already made history as Orlando’s first female police chief in 2007. Throughout the campaign, Demings managed to outraise Rubio in campaign finances, based on campaign finance records from the Federal Election Commission.
As for polls, Rubio held a steady lead against Demings based on an average of recent polls, according to data from to Real Clear Politics.
Rubio’s parents, from Cuba, “earned their way to the middle class by working humble jobs, his father as a bartender in hotels and his mother as a maid, cashier, and stock clerk,” according to Rubio’s bio.
“I am more energized and excited about working in the Senate than I’ve been at any other time because I believe we are on the cusp of a new generation of leadership in this Republican Party that will restore common sense, that will put hardworking Americans first, and that will leave for our children what they deserve to inherit: the greatest country in the history of the world,” Rubio said during his closing remarks Tuesday.