The endorsement of the Miami Herald matters in Florida. I hope it matters enough to elect Val Demings. Its editorial board gave a resounding endorsement to Congresswoman Val Demings, a former chief of police. Her story is inspiring. She was born to parents who worked as a maid and a janitor. Her first job was as a dishwasher. She is articulate, accomplished, and deeply committed to the ideals this country professes.

The race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat is the most consequential on the Nov. 8 ballot. Its outcome will determine not only the direction of the state, but could impact which party controls the Senate. Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, 51, Miami’s homegrown son, has been in the Senate since 2011 and has been a politician for 24 years. Despite all the experience under his belt, his intelligence and innate political talent, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations that this son of Cuban immigrants would usher the GOP into a new era. In 2013, Time declared him “The Republican Savior,” calling him the new voice of the GOP.

But today, he appears more comfortable playing the role of apologist for Donald Trump — the newer, dangerously bombastic voice of the GOP — despite being ridiculed by the former president during his 2016 presidential run and more preoccupied with his own political future than representing his constituents.

In 2020, for example, Rubio went so far as to praise Trump supporters in Texas who used their vehicles to try to run a busload of Joe Biden backers off the road. Someone could have been killed. Floridians have a better alternative. The Herald Editorial Board recommends Democrat Val Demings, a Central Florida congresswoman who previously served as the first female police chief of Orlando.

Her voice is grounded in the real world, bringing toughness, yes, but also an empathy for struggling Americans that we have not heard from the more-removed, more-political Rubio. Although Republicans have tried to cast any Democrat as a “socialist,” she’s a moderate with a practical approach to the issues and a rich life and professional experience.

Born in Jacksonville to a maid and a janitor, Demings started working at 14 as a dishwasher, later became a social worker and changed careers to become a police officer. She rose through the ranks of the Orlando Police Department to become, in 2007, a ”police chief with a social worker’s heart” — without losing her “tough on crime” responsibilities, she told the Editorial Board.

Demings, 65, can connect the dots between Capitol Hill’s ivory tower and the real world. She was first elected to the U.S. House in 2016 and, in 2020, was picked to be one of the House managers who argued for Trump’s impeachment in the Senate.

Her policing background should appeal to voters concerned about public safety. Her social-worker roots should resonate with voters looking for someone who understands the plight of Floridians working hard to make ends meet in this economy.

“The best indicator of future performance is to look at past performance,” Demings told the Editorial Board. “My dedication, my commitment to the oath of office as a police officer, a police chief, member of Congress, and certainly as a senator, I take it extremely serious. And I will show up for Florida.”

Demings already has landed some solid wins as a U.S. representative. Rubio speaks dismissively of her bill to name a post office in honor of a police officer in her district who was shot and killed in the line of duty, something she pushed through with bipartisan support and of which she is rightly proud.

But Demings has sponsored and pushed through other, substantive legislation. “The first piece of legislation that I passed — and was signed into law by President Trump — was legislation that would help fund mental-health programs for law-enforcement officers,” she told the Editorial Board. “They see the worst of the worst every day and have to deal with it and then go home to their own families.” Blue lives obviously matter to her.

In 2019, Demings also sponsored, with Republican U.S. Rep Elise Stefanik, of New York, the Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, directing U.S. intelligence agencies to give reports to Congress about the Russian president’s financial assets and hidden networks. It passed in the House. It did not have a Senate counterpart, but was included in Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act sponsored by U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey.

Demings told the Editorial Board the top issue in this race is inflation. She touted her vote on the Inflation Reduction Act this year, which capped the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries and made investments in clean energy. Rubio voted against the legislation. His campaign ignored requests for an interview with the Editorial Board.

Protecting the environment and combating climate change, which is making hurricanes stronger and wetter, are two other priorities for Demings. That requires “not being global-warming deniers, or climate-change deniers, but really taking that seriously and investing,” she said. Rubio has been a staunch supporter of Everglades-restoration efforts. But for years he questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global temperatures to climb. He somehow recognized the issue in a 2019 column for USA Today, writing that Floridians “are right to be concerned about the changing climate” but said that humans can better mitigate sea-level rise and flooding, rather than addressing the source of the problem: our reliance on fossil fuels.

Demings’ other priorities are public safety and protecting “constitutional rights.” This is where you see the sharpest contrast between Demings and Rubio. Rubio called a bill to codify same-sex marriage into federal law a “stupid waste of time,” part of the agenda of “a bunch of Marxist misfits.” The legislation seeks to protect that right should a 2015 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling be reversed, as Roe v. Wade was in June. The U.S. House passed the legislation with historic GOP support, but needs enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Senators like Rubio stand in the way. Gay marriage isn’t a “Marxist” concoction, it’s a human right that the majority of Americans support.

Demings supports abortions up to the point of viability and wants to codify reproductive rights into federal law. Rubio has pitched himself as “100% pro-life,” but also has said he would support legislation with exceptions for rape and incest, like the 15-week federal ban he’s co-sponsored — if that’s what it takes to get a bill passed.

In other words, such compassionate exceptions are, to Rubio, merely a concession. He told CBS4 host Jim DeFede, “I am in favor of laws that protect human life. I do not believe that the dignity and the worth of human life is tied to the circumstances of their conception, but I recognize that’s not a majority position.”

That is one of the reasons this Senate race is important. It’s about numbers. Whoever controls Congress can either advance or take away reproductive rights if they have enough votes. M

MA longstanding and generally justified criticism of Rubio is that he misses a lot of Senate votes. Demings has said he has one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. By mid-summer this year, Rubio had missed 9.2% of 3,744 roll-call votes since 2011. According to the fact-checking site PolitiFact, that is well above the average of 2.3%, though his attendance improved in recent years. Most of his absences happened during his 2016 presidential run.

Back then, he vowed not to run for reelection to the Senate, then went back on his word. He was reelected with 52% of the vote. Since then, Rubio’s career has been defined by walking the fine line between doing what’s right for the United States and what’s right for his career — most notably, staying on the good side of the mercurial Trump and his base. He hasn’t struck the right balance.

Sometimes we still see in Rubio a glimpse of the smart, eloquent statesman who began his career as a West Miami councilman. In 1999, the Herald Editorial Board recommended him for a Florida House seat, saying he displayed a “thoughtful and idealistic sense of politics.” He won that race and went on to become the speaker of the Florida House. In 2010, we recommended him again for his U.S. Senate seat. We remember him leading the Gang of Eight on a historic bipartisan immigration reform package in 2013 that would have offered a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. But when it failed, Rubio couldn’t run away fast enough from the legislation that had pushed him onto the nation stage.

There was the Rubio who warned Americans six years ago about the “reckless and dangerous” Trump, but soon emerged as the Trump sycophant who’s all too eager to rationalize the former president’s attacks on decency and democracy.

He differentiated himself from some of his Republican colleagues when he voted to certify the results of the 2020 election in Arizona and Pennsylvania. When the U.S. Capitol attack was happening on Jan. 6, he tweeted: “There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill. This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy.”

But he returned to the GOP fold when, in a video posted on Twitter two days later, he blamed the “liberal” press, social-media platforms and state election officials — everyone but the former president and his lies — for millions of Americans not trusting the election results.

He has called the Jan. 6 commission to investigate the attacks a “partisan sham.” And he offered an insultingly silly defense of Trump’s removal of classified documents after he lost the election, calling the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago a partisan witch hunt over a “storage” issue.

Rubio was one of the architects of the Paycheck Protection Program that provided loans for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. as part of the 2020 CARES Act. He said in Tuesday’s debate that the program kept the country out of economic disaster despite significant issues with the backlog of unforgiven loans and the disproportionate impact of the backlog on minority and low-income communities.

He also pushed to double the maximum child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

With the Pulse nightclub slaughter in 2016 in Orlando and the recent life sentence given Nikolas Cruz after pleading guilty to the Parkland school massacre in 2018, gun control is an ever-present issue in Florida. Rubio even said that the Pulse shooting spurred him to run for reelection in 2016 and that he would support raising the age limit to buy a rifle. Though he has filed legislation to support the expansion of red-flag laws that allow a judge to take away guns from people deemed dangerous, he voted against a common-sense — and timid — bipartisan gun-control law President Biden signed after the Uvalde school shooting in May. Among other things, it funded mental-health services in schools, another issue brought up by the Cruz case. Rubio has scoffed at even popular, moderate gun-control measures like enhanced background checks. He then offered an insulting excuse for it during he Tuesday debate: “Every one of these shooters would have passed the background check that [Demings] keeps insisting on,” he said.

Foreign policy has been Rubio’s strongest suit. He’s the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He has made his opposition to China and the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes a trademark. But Demings still holds her own here. In her interview with the Board, she was well-versed on how events in Latin America are local issues in South Florida. On Cuba, Demings denounced the current island government and said she supports the U.S. embargo. She’s against reestablishing diplomatic ties with the regime. On Haiti, Demings was emphatic that the United States should not intervene militarily, despite the chaos currently engulfing that country. Instead, the United States should name an envoy to Haiti to help stabilize its teetering government. On the issue of the Biden administration turning away Venezuelan refugees escaping their country at the U.S.-Mexico border under Title 42, a Trump-era policy, Demings said that it is “a beneficial tool until we can get some other things in place.” The United States needs to speed up the processing of asylum claims, hire more border-security officers and invest in technology, she said.

We repeat, the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat is the most consequential on the Nov. 8 ballot. It is not an overstatement to caution that the winner will either push back hard against those who have our democracy under assault or push our democracy closer to the brink of irreparable damage. Rubio too often shirked his responsibility to push back. We think Demings will stand up for our democratic values.

The Miami Herald Editorial Board recommends VAL DEMINGS for the U.S. Senate.

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