Her candidacy provides Democrats with a high-profile candidate as they hope to challenge Rubio, who’s serving in his second term and is a widely known, well-funded opponent. Democrats hold their primary next August.
If she prevails in the primary, Demings would face a tough general election fight against Rubio, given that Florida Republicans have dominated statewide races for more than a decade. The last time a Democrat won a Senate seat in Florida was in 2012.
On Wednesday, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, Florida’s other GOP senator, slammed Demings’ announcement as “a (Nancy) Pelosi Puppet just looking for a promotion” who’s voted with the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “radical Left agenda.”
Rubio has an endorsement for a third term from Trump, who remains a popular figure in Florida and resides in the state.
Demings’ decision to run for Senate frees up the Democratic primary in the gubernatorial race in Florida, which has attracted the interest of several other high-profile Democrats.
But her Senate candidacy also creates a vacancy in the House at a time when Democrats have a slim majority. Florida is also expecting a major redistricting shuffle as the Sunshine State is gaining a congressional seat following the 2020 Census.
In announcing her bid, Demings highlighted her career as the first female police chief of the Orlando Police Department. She had joined the police department in 1983 and became the police chief in 2007.
Born in Jacksonville in 1957, Demings was the youngest of seven to a father who worked as a janitor and a mother who was a housekeeper — all descendants of slaves.
“When you grow up in the South poor, Black and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity. My father was a janitor, and my mother was a maid — she said: ‘Never tire of doing good, never tire,” Demings said in her announcement. “I’ve never tired of representing Florida, not for one single moment. I’ve never tired of standing up for what I believe is right. Now I’m running for the United States Senate because of two simple words: never tire.”
Demings, first elected to Congress in 2016, rose to prominence as one of the Democratic House impeachment managers charged with making the case against former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial. She was also among the contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate in 2020.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Dan Merica, Daniella Diaz, Ryan Nobles and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.