This past Friday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio announced he had received the endorsement of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in his U.S. Senate contest against his probable opponent, U.S. Representative Val Demings (D-FL-10), a former law enforcement official.
The endorsement comes amid a statewide TV commercial campaign by Demings that seeks to highlight her law enforcement background – which includes 27 years as an Orlando police officer, including four years as the Orlando Chief of Police – and to defuse attempts to tie her to the 2020 “defund the police” messages pushed by some liberal Democrats.
“In the Senate, I’ll protect Florida from bad ideas,” Demings says in the new 30-second TV spot. “Defunding the police: That’s just crazy.”
However, Rubio has been critical of Demings’ vote on legislation that includes provisions that would strip police of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects law enforcement officers against lawsuits over what they do on the job.
A Rubio campaign video shows law enforcement officers expressing outrage over Demings’ vote.
For example, Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said, “I’m really disappointed in Val Demings’ position on law enforcement, especially qualified immunity.” And Florida PBA President John Kazanjian said, “Val Demings. Shame on her. Police officer. Voted to take our qualified immunity away.”
The Demings’ campaign responded to the Rubio ad by highlighting her law enforcement experience and noting that she voted numerous times for legislation to protect law enforcement. However, Demings’ rebuttal did not address the qualified immunity provision of the bill she supported.
During the Friday announcement of the FOP endorsement, Rubio was joined by several law enforcement officers.
“This endorsement was a unanimous vote of our members present at our state conference this year,”said Florida FOP President Steve Zona. “Val Demings’ positions change as much as the wind direction changes, while Senator Rubio stands like an oak tree. Val Demings abandoned law enforcement when we needed her most.”
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that 30,000 strong endorse Senator Marco Rubio,” John Kazanjian, Florida PBA president, said. “I know you have our back, and we got yours.”
“I don’t know of any other time when it’s been so important to support law enforcement across this country than it is right now,” Rubio said. “I think back to that summer of 2020, when it was in vogue among some to go out and criticize and attack law enforcement. I’m deeply honored by this endorsement.”
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.
Photo “Marco Rubio” by Marco Rubio.