Val Demings and Marco Rubio
Val Demings and Marco Rubio held their only debate in the race for U.S. Senator from Florida last night, Oct. 18. Photos: Getty Images.

Val Demings and Marco Rubio had it out on abortion, FEMA, and the economy

It didn’t take long before the debate turned sour once candidates displayed their ideological split.


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Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Val Demings spared no time in adopting an offensive strategy to tackle sitting Senator Marco Rubio’s talking points during a Senate debate on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and lambasted the GOP on abortion, climate change, gun reform, and insurance. 

Demings, who took on the first question after winning the coin toss, addressed the aftermath of Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida, categorized as one of the five most powerful storms to lash through the U.S., in addition to projected rising sea levels in the state.

In Demings’ mind, an adequately prepared federal response, paired with a long-term climate change program, was foremost. 

“We need to get serious about climate change,” said Demings before closing her response. 

Days after Hurricane Ian, as Floridians began to recover from the storm’s rage that resulted in flooding and vast levels of damage, Demings called an emergency legislative session. Her letter highlighted Florida’s battle with weakened insurance, arguing skyrocketing costs were preventing families from obtaining sufficient funding. 

“In Congress, we are working to reduce costs for Florida’s homeowners, and I’ve cosponsored federal legislation to shore up the insurance market, but this crisis is fundamentally a state issue,” Deming’s release read. 

Rubio, the present incumbent, touted previous response efforts. “Unfortunately, if you’re in public service in Florida, it won’t be long before you deal with hurricanes,” Rubio said. 

When an emergency legislative session was called, Rubio also raised the issue of costly but waning insurance in Florida.

“Florida was facing a property insurance crisis even before #Ian because we are less than 10% of the nations homeowner insurance claims but rampant roofing scams make us almost 80% of the insurance lawsuits,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Republican lawmakers voted ‘no’ on a relief package to aid a recovering Florida, a session Rubio was not present for, although he later cited concerns over additions to the package that he could not support. 

On the economy, Rubio elevated the Paycheck Protection Program, a low-risk loan for small businesses to use for up to eight weeks of payroll, and pivoted to criticizing members of Congress, notably Demings, for working remotely. 

In the same breath, Rubio pointed to Demings’s legislative record and said the representative had not passed a bill during her time in office. 

“I’m really disappointed in you, Marco Rubio,” Demings responded. “I think there was a time when you did not lie in order to win.” 

She sponsored two bills that became law, which includes the renaming of a post office in memory of a police officer who was shot and killed on duty. 

Prior to her ascension to public office, Demings served as Orlando’s first woman Chief of Police after a career that spanned 27 years in law enforcement. 

Rubio dismissed his opponent’s rebuttal and boasted that he’d also renamed federal buildings, while simultaneously criticizing Demings for her voting record, pointing towards a favored pattern with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

His assessment is true, as Demings’ voting record coincides with Pelosi’s, although, put in context, the House Speaker has only participated in 13% of the voting sessions. There were 925 votes this session. 

The moderator then moved on to abortion and each candidate was put to task on their stances. 

“Senator, how gullible do you think voters are?” Demings asked after the Republican incumbent said he’d support abortion legislation that includes exceptions for rape and incest. Rubio indeed has supported said legislation for a proposed national abortion ban at 20 weeks with exception inclusions. 

Rubio, as a nominee, does not support abortion, despite his voting record. 

The conversation then shifted toward Demings, who, according to Rubio, supports abortion up until the time of conception. 

“I support the right to choose up to the time of viability,” Demings rebutted. 

Medical literature agrees, across the board, that time of viability is at 24 weeks.

Rubio, on the other hand, did not directly respond whether he would support legislation that would seek to ban abortion entirely, but he shifted his answer to his current voting record and returned the conversation to Demings’ stance, which she had previously answered. 

He called Demings’ response “vague.


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