Within minutes of Florida Rep. Val Demings’ (D) angry confrontation with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (R) on Tuesday, it was clear she had struck a chord with Democrats.
Footage of Demings’ showdown — in which she scolded Jordan, one of former President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies, for politicizing a vote on hate crimes against Asian-Americans during a House Judiciary Committee meeting — flew around the Internet, with prominent liberals cheering her willingness to take on the Ohio Republican.
“Rep. Val Demings just shut down Jim Jordan during a hearing and the world is better for it,” tweeted Scott Dworkin, a prominent liberal voice on Twitter.
Within 48 hours, the CNN clip of the exchange between Demings and Jordan — punctuated by the Florida Democrat’s “Did I strike a nerve?” interjection — had been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube.
Demings, a former Orlando police chief before coming to Congress in 2016, was also a much-coveted guest for cable news in the wake of the episode. In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, she said this of the incident:
“I would think if Mr. Jordan was so concerned about protecting law enforcement, then he would be very interested, in passing legislation that reduces hate crimes that law enforcement has to deal with.
“And so, what we saw yesterday was just another political game, that he — where he was trying to distract us, distract the Committee, distract the American people, from the real issues, and using, and tried to use, law enforcement as a political pawn.”
Demings has been in the national spotlight before. She was one of seven House impeachment managers who argued for the conviction of Trump for his actions regarding Ukraine in early 2020. Once Biden became the party’s presidential nominee later that year, Demings’ name was prominently mentioned as one of a handful of possible vice presidential picks. (Biden had previously pledged to pick a woman, and Demings’ resume — an African American woman with a law enforcement background who hailed from the swing state of Florida — made a whole lot of sense.)
This latest episode has re-stoked the buzz around her — prompting politicos to publicly wonder what’s next for her.
On Wednesday morning during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) asked Demings, “on behalf of the people of Florida, can we please call you Sen. Demings?”
To which Demings replied:
“Well as you can see, based on yesterday, we still have a heck of a lot of work to do [in the House]. What I can tell you is I am going to continue to do what I have tried to do in every position I have had, which is to remember my oath and fulfill our most important mission, and that is the protection of the American people, and I am going to continue to do that regardless of the title that I hold.”
Which isn’t a “no!” Or even close!
Even before Demings’ confrontation with Jordan went viral this week, she had kept the door open to running statewide in 2022, when both Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are running for reelection.
“There’s plenty of work to do in the House right now. If that would take me to another campaign, then I’m keeping that door open,” Demings said in an interview with The Washington Post in February, before adding:
“When you’re looking at statewide candidates, whether it’s for governor or senator, then, of course, every state wants the most qualified, the most experienced person who brings unique perspectives, unique backgrounds to the table. I just want states to start realizing that many times, the most experienced person in the room just happens to be a woman. And guess what, [she] just might be a woman of color.”
Demings’ first-quarter fundraising, which covers cash collected through March 31, suggests she hasn’t hit the “go” button on a statewide race just yet. She raised $349,000 in the first three months of the year and ended the period with just over $1 million in the bank. Given her national profile — and Internet celebrity — she would likely be able to raise considerable cash in a short period of time for a statewide bid, however.
The real question for Demings is what does she want next? With the top ranks of House Democratic leadership — including Speaker Nancy Pelosi — likely to be headed for a significant turnover in the next few years, Demings could well be someone the party looks to for a leadership role in the House. Rubio seems more vulnerable than DeSantis, and fellow Rep. Stephanie Murphy has been mulling a bid against the senator for several months now.
Demings seems content, at the moment, to keep all of her options open. But given the fundraising requirements of running statewide in Florida — Sen. Rick Scott (R) spent $83 million to win the seat in 2018 — Demings may not have the luxury of much more time.
You can be sure Florida politicos (and Democrats at the national level) are watching her every move very closely for hints of where she plans to spend her political capital — and how.