Demings takes the national stage, but the mission is unchanged

Rep. Val Demings, from Florida’s 10th congressional district, is looking to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio come November.

BY SHEILA JAMES, Contributor

MAYO, Fla. – The small North Florida town of Mayo, Fla., where around 1,500 people call home, sits in the crook of the Panhandle. And for all its diversity, charm, and easy living, tourists are few and so are candidates for statewide office.

However, Congresswoman Val Demings, who is running for the U.S. Senate, showed up for a visit. The former Orlando police chief toured the community with her friend Lafayette County Sheriff Brian N. Lamb, a popular Republican.

She knows the unique profile of neglected rural communities. She recently took her fifth trip to the region in a few months where she applies strategies from the old-school playbook. Her colleague Congressman Al Lawson, also a Black Democrat, said she’s on the right path.

Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated Congressman Al Lawsons’ North Florida district. Lawson’s counting on his rural roots for victory as he runs in his old district against a Republican incumbent.

Lawson, who was born and raised in Midway, Fla., has represented more than 13 conservative Panhandle counties for nearly 40 years, winning with overwhelming support. He is the only Black elected official to lay claim to that distinction in modern history. He feels if you show up and listen, they will support you.

“They like you to come and listen not talk to them through commercials,” said Lawson. Democrats running statewide often lose by thin margins when rural voters could easily fill that void. “I grew up in a rural area and those people want the same thing as everyone else — opportunity.”

Economic opportunity tops Demings’ pledge to voters.

“My parents worked hard all their lives to give their children the opportunity to succeed. Economic opportunity is essential to our community’s growth and prosperity,” said Demings.

At the Economic Equity Forum in Miami’s Richmond Heights, that goal was the main discussion.  It was also the thread connecting Sopchoppy, Mayo, Tampa, Jacksonville, Quincy, Gainesville, and Ft. Lauderdale. Good paying jobs and equal pay are part of the gains brought by economic opportunity according to the congresswoman.

Newly elected to Congress, the lady from Mandarin on the St. Johns River has become a Democratic star. Not only was Demings a prominent member of the panel that impeached former President Donald Trump, but she was on the shortlist for vice president to Joe Biden.

Now as a provocative candidate for the U.S. Senate, she is the subject of network news shows and is featured in prestigious magazines such as Vanity Fair, where she’s highlighted in the July/August edition.

The story is branded with a picture of her confidently perched on her red Harley Davidson on a dirt crossroad. The symbolism of the photo was crafted by renowned photographer Annie Liebowitz.

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