Why you should care
Because Rep. Val Demings' background makes her a top choice as a Democratic running mate.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist.
After watching hours and hours of the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump, we have gotten to see the legal teams of both sides in action. The president has opted for a team made up of television commentators, sycophants and in some cases misfits he believes will play well to members of his base who get their news from conservative media. As we know, the president loves a show.
Trump’s ire — and “shifty” nickname — thus far has focused mostly on Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman who’s ably guided the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. In the opening days of the trial, he’s been the lead House manager presenting the evidence of Trump’s misdeeds in trying to get Ukraine to announce a politically helpful investigation in exchange for government favors.
However, what the president may not have counted on is the recognition and praise Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings is getting. She’s fast becoming the breakout star of the impeachment trial, a foe the president never saw coming, and one who could end up on the ticket running against him this fall.
In real time, four senators seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States are seeing her talent up close.
Demings is a relative newcomer to Washington. She was first elected to the House from an Orlando-based district in 2016 and reelected in 2018 after running unopposed. Prior to serving in Congress, Demings had a 27-year career with the Orlando Police Department, including becoming its first female police chief.
Last year in the House Intelligence Committee, she garnered a great deal of recognition when she questioned Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. She pointedly questioned him about the president’s written responses and if the president’s “answers showed that he wasn’t always being truthful.” Mueller replied: “I would say generally.”
Fast-forward to the impeachment trial, where on Tuesday the congresswoman made the Democrats’ argument for including five sets of documents that were never provided by the Trump administration during the House impeachment investigation. “As a career law enforcement officer, I have never seen anyone take such extreme steps to hide evidence allegedly proving his innocence,” Demings said. “And I do not find that here today. The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it.”
The performance earned an outpouring of praise on Twitter — as well as behind the scenes at MSNBC, where I am a political analyst. And her profile will continue to rise tenfold. Perhaps it was her background in law enforcement, or maybe because she is the only House manager who is not an attorney, but she connected to the audience in the Senate chamber and those watching like no other.
Which is why I expect that Demings will be on everyone’s short list for vice president. In real time, four senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the United States are seeing her talent up close. Those not in the Senate chamber are catching TV clips and hearing the buzz. Imagine watching her debate Vice President Mike Pence — the ratings would be through the roof.
Aside from her role as House manager and her law enforcement background, Demings’ home state of Florida is a critical battleground this year. Certainly having a favorite daughter, who is also a woman of color, from Florida would make the Trump team nervous, considering Trump only won the state by 1.2 percentage points.
With the Democratic nominee almost certain to be White, and more than likely a White man, Black women are rocketing to the top of the early veepstakes lists. The ones we’ll hear about most are Sen. Kamala Harris, a former presidential candidate herself, and Georgia’s near-miss gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Is Demings making a play? Her fellow Florida politicos have been trying to push her name out on the national stage as a VP possibility, and former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recently said on MSNBC that Demings is a “bonafide candidate” for VP.
She would bring a compelling life story to the campaign trail. Demings grew up in a two-room home in Jacksonville, Florida, the youngest of seven kids. Her parents worked as a maid and janitor, and she started working at 14 to pay for college at Florida State.
And perhaps the part of her bio that will most instill fear in the Trump/Pence ticket: Demings rides a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle.