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Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy are prepared to challenge on Sen. Marco Rubio for his seat in 2022. Photo: Getty Images. 
Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy are prepared to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio for his seat in 2022. Photo: Getty Images. 

Two rising democratic congresswomen plan to unseat Marco Rubio in 2022

The Florida GOP Senator’s seat is an unlikely road to Democrats increasing their narrow majority in the upper chamber.

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Democrats hold a narrow majority in both chambers of Congress, and they hope to expand their leads in future elections and pass more of President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

In the House of Representatives, the GOP is implementing a risky strategy to take control after the 2022 midterm elections. 

They’ve recognized that former president Donald Trump still has a strong influence on a sizable portion of the Republican voter base, and the party shows outward intent to unite around his image to increase turnout in competitive races. 

This saw Liz Cheney, former Chair of the House Republican Conference, ousted from leadership for publicly denouncing claims pushed by the former president that the 2020 election was stolen from him. 

The daughter of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his incitement of an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and she says she would do anything to stop him from running for re-election in 2024. 

She was recently replaced by Elise Stefanik, a more moderate Trump loyalist from New York, on May 14. 

Election results in 2022 will tell if this attempt to unify the party ends up actually dividing voters. 

In the Senate, Democrats hold the slimmest of majorities, as both major parties have the same number of legislators, but the result of the presidential election makes Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote in the upper chamber. 

After defying the odds in the Georgia runoff elections last year, Democrats want to increase their majority so they do not have to continue relying on miracles. 

Many would think that Democrats would focus on capturing seats that will become open in 2022 through the retirement of Senators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri, but two rising stars in the party are ready to take on a powerful incumbent. 

Florida’s Marco Rubio has served as one of the state’s senators since 2011, and he is one of the most-recognizable faces in American politics. 

Along with Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, they are the only two current GOP members of the Senate that are of Hispanic descent. 

The former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives has chaired the Senate Small Business and Intelligence committees in his time in Washington. 

In 2013, Rubio was on the cover of TIME magazine and the publication called him “The Republian Savior” for trying to lobby his conservative colleagues in support of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

But the Cuban-American’s time in politics has not been full of accomplishments. 

He unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, finishing third in the primaries, and he was humiliated by his opponents for memorable blunders. 

In the Florida primaries, he finished behind Trump by nearly 20 points and dropped out soon after. 

After labeling the former businessman as a “con artist” ahead of capturing the GOP nomination for president in 2016, he said the move to impeach him following the attack on the Capitol was a “waste of time.” 

Currently, Rubio spends most of his time in the Senate urging his colleagues to more aggressively condemn China on their repressive actions towards ethnic minorities, anti-democratic system, and their attempts to expand their influence through the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Meet the Challengers

For many years, the Sunshine state has been a political graveyard for Democrats. 

Since Jeb Bush’s victory in 1998, it has continued to have a Republican governor. 

Biden’s current Administrator for NASA, Bill Nelson, served as one of the state’s senators from 2001, but his reelection bid in 2018 fell to former governor Rick Scott by just over 10,000 votes, or 0.2% of the count. 

In terms of presidential elections this century, Barack Obama was the only Democrat to win Florida, doing so in both 2008 and 2012. 

President Biden lost the state by less than 4%, and although Harris may have helped drive up support in other parts of the country, a Floridian was also on his shortlist when choosing a running mate. 

Congresswoman Val Demings is set to announce the launch of her campaign for Senate in the coming days. 

Prior to entering politics she had served in the Orlando Police Department for 27 years, and even rose to become its chief. 

Her ties to law enforcement may have been why Biden did not end up going for her since the former legislator faced criticism for his record on criminal justice. Picking Demings may have come across as tone-deaf during a year in which thousands were protesting against police abusing their power. 

“The department has a long record of excessive-force allegations, and a lack of transparency on the subject, dating back at least as far as Demings’s time as chief,” The Atlantic wrote ahead of her run for Congress in 2016. 

She rose to national prominence after being picked as one of the managers for Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, and being floated as potential vice presidential selection kept her name relevant during election season. 

Demings was originally touted to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis for his position since he only won his race by 0.4% in 2018. 

Polls showing a significant increase in his popularity are likely to have motivated her to opt for a Senate run instead. In polls that do not include Trump, DeSantis leads as Republicans’ preferred choice for 2024. 

Being a former police chief might allow Demings to sell moderates and some conservatives on the police reforms that organizations like Blacks Lives Matter are pushing for.  

Her previous occupation does not dictate her rhetoric in Congress, and she has become a strong advocate for reform. 

In the Democratic primaries, she can go off of the name recognition she has achieved in recent years. 

But she will not be alone.

Another congresswoman set to make her official announcement soon is Stephanie Murphy. 

She was also elected to Congress in 2016, and is a co-chair for the Blue Dog Coalition, which is made up of centrists House Democrats that prioritize fiscal conservatism. 

The young legislator worked as a national security specialist at the Department of Defense and a business professor before running for office.  

An advantage she has is that her district is closely representative of her state’s electorate. 

It is classified as a swing district according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, and its racial makeup mirrors that of Florida. 

Although Murphy was born in Vietnam, her story might appeal to many conservative Latino voters. 

Much of South Florida’s Hispanic population, which is mainly represented by Cubans and Venezuelans, came to America after fleeing left-wing regimes in Latin America.  

Her family escaped communist-controlled Vietnam in 1979, when she was just six months old. In this time, the Vietnamese began an armed conflict with the Khmer Rouge in neighboring Cambodia.  

The family was rescued by the U.S. Navy after their boat ran out of fuel while at sea. 

“I also remember a time when I was a child, packing basic supplies and shipping them back to family members in Vietnam who were suffering from shortages as a result of the implementation of socialist economic policies. I’ve seen the darker sides of socialism just as many of my constituents in Florida who have experienced Fidel Castro’s Cuba or Maduro’s Venezuela,” she said. 

Rubio does not have the same story since he is the son of Cuban immigrants who escaped the island nation before socialist leader Fidel Castro took power. 

However, Murphy’s position in Congress and her dissent of left-wing dictatorships without recognizing the role America played in destabilizing these regions will put her at odds with progressives in Florida. 

In the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, she endorsed centrists Beto O’Rourke and Mike Bloomberg before backing Biden. 

Even though they both represent parts of Orlando, the two congresswomen set to take on Sen. Rubio offer widely different perspectives and are in for a long campaign ahead of them, as it will be one of the most closely-monitored races in 2022.  

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