Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has won a third term. The Republican lawmaker successfully fended off a challenge from Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who represented Orlando in the House of Representatives.
This contest was between two of the top 10 fundraisers in the entire country. Demings ranked third in individual contributions at more than $73 million, Rubio was eighth at $47 million. Despite the fundraising disadvantage, Rubio had a consistent, comfortable lead.
Democrats believed Demings was the ideal candidate to take on Rubio. Demings became Orlando’s first female chief of police in 2007 and violent crime dropped 40% under her watch. At a time when voters consistently rank crime as one of their key concerns, Demings had a history of public safety and supporting the police.
But Republicans have a strong hold on Florida politics. The GOP’s dominance in the state, coupled with Floridians’ disapproval of President Joe Biden were difficult roadblocks to overcome.
During their one and only debate, the candidates sparred on abortion policy in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Rubio said he is “100% pro-life” but has always voted for bills that have exceptions because he said that’s what can pass and that’s what a majority of people support. Demings said decisions regarding abortion should be made between the woman, her family, her doctor and her faith.
Gun violence was also a key issue in a state that has seen two of the deadliest mass shootings in history — Parkland and Pulse. Rubio said he supports red flag laws, while Demings said Rubio has spent 24 years in elected office and not done enough to address public safety risks posed by guns.