Val Demings Makes Sense for Charlie Crist's Running Mate

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: May 21, 2014 3:55 AM
Val Demings

Val Demings

Charlie Crist could be taking a page from Rick Scott’s playbook as a possible lieutenant governor candidate starts to emerge.

Val Demings stunned Florida political circles when she ended her campaign against Teresa Jacobs on Tuesday. Demings was well-positioned to give Jacobs a fight in the Orange County mayoral race but it certainly wouldn’t have been a slam dunk. With Demings suddenly ending her campaign, speculation quickly grew that she would be Crist’s understudy on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket. Crist’s people are saying it’s too early for running-mate speculation, but they did not shoot down the trial balloons.

And why would they? For all the odd, even outlandish choices the Democrats' selection process has wrought going into mid-terms, Val Demings doesn't look like anybody's idea of a mistake.

Demings has some pretty impressive credentials. Starting off as a social worker in Jacksonville, she served more than 20 years as a cop in Orlando before serving four years as that city’s police chief, a position now held by her husband. In 2012, she almost upset Dan Webster, giving that veteran Republican politician one of the biggest scares in his more than three decades on the Florida political stage.

Politically, Demings makes a lot of sense for Crist. She has one foot in Jacksonville where she grew up while the other is in Central Florida. During her bid against Webster, she became a favorite of Democrats across the state and nation and her narrow loss did not hurt her there. Earlier this month, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC featured Demings on a call attacking Scott on abortion and urging him to veto pro-life bills. As an African-American, she should be able to boost black turnout for Crist while reassuring white moderates with her police experience. Plenty of Democrats and liberals are wary of Crist with his history of changing parties and positions. Demings should help reassure them.

Scott did something similar in 2010 when he brought on Jennifer Carroll as his running mate. Carroll backed Bill McCollum over Scott in the primaries and was part of the House leadership in Tallahassee. Bringing Carroll on board helped ensure Republicans were behind Scott despite their lack of familiarity with him.

Carroll’s record in the Navy and leading the state VA gave voters a good impression of her, much like Demings’ police background has helped her. Nor do the similiarties end there, as both women are black and offered suprisingly competitive challenges to established congressmen -- though admittedly Demings did better against Webster than Carroll ever did against Corrine Brown. Of course, Carroll’s time under Scott ended badly and even now the former lieutenant governor occasionally surfaces and throws barbs at her old boss.

If Crist insists he isn't going to debate Nan Rich before the primary -- if he continues to plow right past her as if she doesn't exist to get to Rick Scott in the general election, then certainly he now is in a position to think about who he wants for his running mate. The Democratic bench is thin and there simply aren’t many options out there. If he chooses her, Demings should help Crist with the party base, reach out to moderates and aid in nailing down Orlando. She makes sense as Crist’s running mate, especially as she ends what was a serious challenge to Jacobs.

Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (4)

9:21PM MAY 22ND 2014
Ms. Demings would be well-served to maintain her image as stalwart and stay away from Wind Sock Charlie.
10:35AM MAY 22ND 2014
He was chief of police in Orlando, then retired from the city and took the job of county Director of Public Safety. He retired from the county and was elected Sheriff of Orange County. He was eligible to retire again after 6 years of service there! that will be three retirement! Val on the other hand is having quite a time getting her feet on the ground. A lot of folks around Orange county believe her inability to get things together might have something to do with the rumors that her stolen sig sauer pistil (stolen from her car at her home) was reportedly found to be in the possession of the murderer of her husbands Deputy First Class Brandon Coates - whose murderers first name was also Brandon - Orlando rumors say they conspired to cover this up. If this is true it should have been immediately made public instead of covered up. If it is not true likewise they should have addressed these rumors!
8:13PM MAY 21ST 2014
Her husband is Sheriff of Orange County, not Police Chief of Orlando.
Concerned Democrat
10:11AM MAY 21ST 2014
Demmings is an awful choice for LG! First she is a two time looser now that she was tanking in the polls and chickened out of running for Orlando Mayor where she couldn't even motivate her base (whatever that is) to vote for get?

How the heck does that help Charlie?

The Black vote turnout for Democrats is 98% anyway and Charlie is already from Central Florida where he is extremely popular. And if Blacks don't turn out to vote Democrat and Rick Scott gets elected then that's their fault.

Charlie need an Hispanic woman from South Florida like Daisy Biaz who's running now for State House since every analysis of the Sink loss said the South Florida vote drop was the key to her loss and the Hispanic vote and population is exploding and the Black vote and population is shrinking.

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