Opinion/Analysis

Her appointment as a House Impeachment Manager increases her profile on the national stage at the beginning of the election cycle

By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

I try to steer clear of national politics, at least as it relates to The Apopka Voice. You will not see any crazy editorials in this publication speculating on President Obama’s citizenship or if President Trump is the worst leader ever or a gift from God.

I leave national politics to The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Politico.

The Apopka Voice has always focused on local news, government, and politics. Names like Bankson, Becker, Kilsheimer, Land, and Nelson are far more important to us than Clinton, McConnell, Obama, Pelosi, or Trump.

However Congresswoman Val Demings is the occasional exception to that rule.

Demings represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Florida-10 encompasses all of Apopka. She is also well-known by local leaders and has occasional town hall meetings in Apopka. I feel an obligation to cover Demings on behalf of The Apopka Voice readers, and have published several of her news releases when they relate to Apopka, or Orange County. If the releases or statements are more political, or focused on national issues, I usually pass on publishing them, but when local news and national news occasionally merge, I feel obligated to report on it, and sometimes, though rarely, weigh-in.

Such was the case last weekend (January 4th), when I received this news release from Demings:

Rep. Demings Comments on Iran Strike

ORLANDO, FL – Today Rep. Val Demings (FL-10), a member of the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, issued the following statement on the president’s decision to kill Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani and to deploy additional U.S. service personnel to the Middle East.

Said Rep. Demings, “During the impeachment debate I said that habitual offenders never sneak up on you. They telegraph their intentions time and time again. I have to wonder about President Trump’s previous tweet that ‘in order to get re-elected, President Obama will start a war with Iran.’ Habitual offenders telegraph their intentions.

“This reckless and destabilizing strike puts Americans and our allies at risk. While I share former Vice President Biden’s belief that no Americans will mourn Soleimani’s passing, America needs real answers and verifiable justifications before we deploy our sons and daughters.

“The first and most important question is ‘why now?’ What was the so-called ‘imminent threat’ that led us to strike in the first place? Recent reporting and the State Department’s struggle to justify the strike raise serious questions about whether this was a national security decision or a political one. Did we confer with our allies in the region? What is the Administration’s overall strategic plan since deliberately undermining the Iran Nuclear Deal? Someone once said, ‘our enemies no longer fear us and our allies no longer trust us.’ I pray neither is true.”

*****

Take what you will from the statement, I know Demings has both supporters and detractors reading The Apopka Voice, but what caught my eye the most was her reference to former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. Typically Demings will only quote co-authors of bills she is sponsoring in these news releases, so why reference a person who is not a colleague in Congress, and is also out of office?

It got me thinking about the reasoning… and the theory I came away with was that she is probably going to endorse Biden in his presidential campaign sometime before the Florida Presidential Preference Primary on March 17th, and this may have been a subtle action to begin the process.

I sent an email to Daniel Gleick, Demings’ press contact in Washington DC, who I have communicated with through email many times in the last three years, and asked him about the Biden quote:

 “I’m guessing this is a little premature but is Rep. Demings going to endorse Joe Biden sometime before the Florida Primary? I noticed she referenced his quote in her release. If she does, please send that endorsement to me, and I will publish it on The Apopka Voice.
Gleick quickly responded:
“Hi, Reggie. You can direct any election questions to Wendy Anderson.”
Hmmm…
Two things… First, I didn’t really consider this an election question. I was simply trying to chase down a hunch that a moderate Democrat from a battleground state with a presidential preference primary coming up soon might endorse a moderate Democrat candidate like Biden. It didn’t feel earth-shattering, nor did it feel like a question that needed to be handled by her political shop.
Second, Anderson is her chief of staff. Again, this question was not one I expected to land that far up the ladder. Was there more to this connection between Biden and Demings than just an endorsement?
I sent Anderson this email; essentially the same question as I asked Gleick, but with an added theory tacked on to the end.
 “I’m guessing this is a little premature but is Rep. Demings going to endorse Joe Biden sometime before the Florida Primary? I’m also curious if there has been any discussion between Rep. Demings and VP Biden or their offices or campaign teams about her being on a shortlist as a possible running mate?”
A few days later, she responded with a brief statement from Demings.

“Statement from Representative Demings- ‘I am not prepared to make any statement about the 2020 presidential race at this time.’ -Wendy D. Anderson”

I’m not a political operative or the chief of staff to a congresswoman, but if I were that’s exactly the sort of answer I would provide to a reporter far away from the national spotlight asking a question about issues she had no incentive to answer… just yet. It’s also the sort of non-answer I would expect from a person who is being considered for a role in a campaign, and while her non-answer proves nothing, it does illustrate that Demings did not deny the notion out of hand.
I also emailed the Biden campaign three days ago, but did not receive a response from them as of yet.
Despite it being somewhat of a longshot in nature, if a politician with ties to Apopka has a shot at being the nominee for vice president, its worth a little local speculation, so I dug a little deeper into the rabbit hole.
*****
It turns out that it’s not without prior speculation (and precedent) on a national level that Demings’ name has surfaced, even as a possible presidential candidate, and there has also been a phone call between Biden and Demings that was reported on less than a year ago.
In a January 2017 article written by Chris Cilizza of The Washington Post in his blog “The Fix”, he ranked Demings as the 10th most likely female to run for president.
He wrote this about her prospects:
 “You’ve probably never heard of Demings. So, how does she make (my) list? She’s the former Orlando police chief and now a freshman member of Congress. She’s also an African American woman. Demings is impressive, and you can bet Democrats will look for every opportunity to push her into the national spotlight.”
Amy Davidson of The New Yorker also compiled a list of 13 women who should run for president in December of 2016. Demings was ranked #9.
Davidson wrote this about her before she was even sworn in as a Congresswoman:
 “Val Demings – U.S. representative-elect from Florida. ‘I carry a 9-mm. gun in my Dooney & Bourke that was a gift when I retired from the police department,’ Demings told Marie Claire, in 2012, when she first ran for Congress. Demings, who had been the first female police chief of Orlando, didn’t win that time, but she was back in 2016. An African-American, she overcame the poverty and the segregation of her childhood in Florida (a swing state, if anyone needed to be reminded). In every respect, she is a determined fighter and a compelling presence. Also, Demings’s husband would be the first former sheriff to serve as the First Spouse.”

More recently there was a phone call between Biden to Demings in which he alerted her to his intention to run for president. Politico first wrote about it in May of 2019 in an article entitled “A dream ticket: Black lawmakers pitch Biden-Harris to beat Trump.”

Inside the article, Demings commented on a call she received from former VP Biden:

As vice president, Biden was frequently in touch with Congressional Black Caucus leaders and would host an annual dinner with the entire caucus at his house in observance of Black History Month. Biden has also taken steps to cultivate relationships with younger black lawmakers who came to Congress since (President)Trump has been in the White House, reaching out to them via phone calls and requesting in-person meetings.

“He called me before he made his announcement to fill me in. And I was honored that he would call me to let me know,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who has yet to endorse a candidate.

*****

 Okay, I get it. There isn’t a lot of evidence here, and the fact that Demings might endorse Biden certainly does not prove she may be on a shortlist of VP candidates, but considering he allegedly reached out to former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and is apparently courting California Senator Kamala Harris, Demings might fit the bill of a strong African American woman with a law enforcement history, who is from arguably the most important battleground state there is – Florida. And although her time in congress is short, she more than makes up for that with her life story. Here is just a sample of Demings’ bio from her congressional website:

 “Rep. Demings is a lifelong public servant who broke numerous glass ceilings in her rise through the Orlando Police Department and her election to Congress. Val shared a two-room home in Jacksonville with her six older siblings. Val got her first job at age 14. She worked, saved, and with the sacrifice and hard work of her parents became the first in her family to graduate from college. With her parents proudly at her side, she received a B.S. in Criminology from Florida State University, then went on to receive a Master’s in Public Administration. During her distinguished 27-year career with the Orlando Police Department (OPD), she served in virtually every department. In 2007, Val Demings made history when she was appointed to serve as Orlando’s first female Chief of Police.” 
                                                           *****
That’s what I wrote earlier this week, and then on Wednesday Demings was appointed to be one of only seven representatives to manage the impeachment hearings, therefore propelling her into the national spotlight in the height of the election season. What seemed like a theoretical longshot, now seems a bit more plausible.
But is that enough to launch Demings into running mate status with less than four years experience in Congress?
It would be a surprising choice, but she does have a compelling story that would certainly play well in a heightened three-month sprint to election day that vice presidential candidates experience to introduce themselves to the electorate.
So will Demings endorse Biden? Will Biden win the nomination? Will he put Demings on the VP shortlist? Will he choose her as his running mate? Will Demings be the next Vice President of the United States?
Only time will tell.
A lot of bank shots would have to fall for this theory to take shape. But as we all know, stranger things have happened in politics, both nationally and certainly in Apopka.

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