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Val Demings: the Democrat Who Never Cared About Cuba Until She Announced Her Candidacy

Val Demings, la demócrata que nunca se interesó en Cuba hasta que anunció su candidatura en Florida

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Midterms are just around the corner and Republicans have only one goal in mind: to regain control of both houses. To do so, as NBC News explains, there are several key races that the GOP must win, not only to regain or change the colors of some seats, but also to keep them. One of those battles is the race between Senator Marco Rubio and his opponent, Representative Val Demings.

Rubio, a Cuban-American, is a political veteran who is quite popular among Florida’s Latino community. The senator must keep his seat to help his party win a majority and also keep his presidential aspirations alive. Demings, on the other hand, seeks to surprise the Republican playing the now common Democratic “race card.”

This was reported by The Week in May 2021, shortly before Demings announced his candidacy to fight Rubio for the Senate seat: “as Democrats so often do, a Demings win will lean on a lot of Black support. With Demings there is the opportunity to make her the first Black woman to represent the state of Florida in the Senate and only the third Black woman from any state to do so. That feat alone should be enough to draw widespread media attention and fundraising.”

val demings
Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida) questions Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Department of Justice oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., October 21, 2021.

The Democrats’ idea with Demings is, in short, to present a familiar, experienced face, who was even considered as an option to accompany then-candidate Joe Biden on the ticket, and to get the black community’s vote. Demings, in addition, can be thought of as “moderate” and move away from the radicalism adopted by the Florida Democratic Party. Her past as the first Black female police chief in Orlando (Florida) from 2007 to 2011 can be used to reach out to Latino communities concerned about safety, for example.

The problem for Demings is that Florida, if the trend is confirmed, practically ceased to be a swing state and became a red state, almost a Republican stronghold. Donald Trump swept Florida in the previous presidential election, Ron DeSantis is up for re-election and the Republican candidates for the midterms look very solid. Particularly in the Rubio vs. Demings race, national polls show a significant 9 percentage point advantage in favor of the Republican.

Val Demings and her problems in winning over Cubans

What could Val Demings do, or rather, what does she need to do to reverse the trend favoring Senator Rubio? The answer is simple: the Cuban vote.

No community is more relevant, in Florida, than the Cuban one, and Val Demings knows this very well, which is why, since the demonstrations broke out in Cuba last July 11, 2021, the representative used her Twitter account to send constant messages in support of the Cuban people.

“America stands for freedom. We must stand with the peaceful demonstrators in Cuba as they struggle for theirs — not only freedom from tyranny and dictatorship, but freedom from disease, poverty, and corruption. The White House must move swiftly. Freedom shall and must prevail,” was one of the many tweets posted by Demings during the Cuban people’s uprising against Castroism.

The curious thing is that before the social outburst inside the island, which was an unequivocal show of strength and courage of the Cubans against the communist regime that has been oppressing them for decades, there was never a single pronouncement, tweet or simple statement from Val Demings on the case of Cuba. Practically, her position on the Cuban tragedy was completely neutral until that moment.

The Florida newspaper Diario Las Americas, in an article titled “Six months after 9/11, Democratic inaction continues”, published last week, rightly questioned Val Demings because “before 9/11 she maintained a practically null position regarding the reality of Cuba, to later launch into a series of arguments in favor, supposedly of the Cuban people who were already being trampled in the streets of the island.”

The article continues: “People have the right to change as long as the change is legitimate and not part of a strategy. If this is the case, welcome, a political ally for the people of Cuba, whether he sits or not.”

The doubts raised in Diario Las Américas about Val Demings’ political intentions are valid. Can Cubans trust someone who suddenly joined their cause just after announcing that she’d run for office in Florida? Demings’ words seem more like a campaign strategy than a heartfelt epiphany. And Cubans are not likely to vote for someone who is not truly committed to their long, hard struggle.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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