Demings meets with veterans and Crist, Democrats gather in ‘unity’ in South Florida

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U.S. Senate nominee Val Demings paid a visit to a West Park VFW post Thursday evening ahead of a rally with other Florida Democrats in Broward County to speak to veterans and those in the armed forces.

“We enjoy a lot in our country. We enjoy our liberty. We enjoy our freedoms,” she said. “But what I know every day is that freedom is not free.“

Demings, an Orlando-area congresswoman, focused her speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8195 post on her plans for veterans and those in the armed forces. Veterans, she said, sacrificed their lives to serve the country and deserve access to affordable housing and health care.

“You shouldn’t have to wait six months, eight months, a year to be able to see a specialist [at a VA hospital],” she said.

The three-term U.S. representative will now bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is seeking his third term in office. Demings, 65, is a former Orlando Police chief. She won a Tuesday primary contest against marginal opponents, with almost 85% of the vote. She was previously in the running to be President Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick during the 2020 election and served as an impeachment manager for former President Donald Trump’s first trial.

If elected, she would become the first Black U.S. Senator from Florida. As Demings talked about her beginnings in Duval and her career in Orlando, she echoed words from Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president.

“I may be the first,” Demings said. “But if we do what we’re supposed to do as a nation, I sure won’t be the last.”

Florida Democrats face a difficult climate in 2022. Republicans head toward the November general election with a registered-voter advantage over Democrats for the first time in state history. Meanwhile, polls continue to show that Biden remains an unpopular president, and the president’s party often loses seats in Congress during midterm elections.

READ MORE: Is Florida still a swing state? The next 11 weeks will determine the answer

But the United States was built on difficult tasks, Demings said, referencing the women’s suffrage movement, civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act.

“No one knows better than the men and women in this room that this great nation was never built on easy,” said Demings, who has been up and down against Rubio in recent polls. “This race isn’t an easy race.”

Her night didn’t end in West Park, however.

Demings left for a Florida Democrats “unity” event in Tamarac featuring Democratic nominee for governor Charlie Crist, who hopes to oust Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, and other primary night winners to celebrate the party’s general election ticket and discuss their need to mobilize voters.

Speaking to the audience, Demings laid out some of her goals if she’s elected: increasing teacher wages, reducing gun violence and protecting access to abortion.

“We’re coming together to save the very soul of Florida,” she said. “And our nation.”

This story will be updated.