With roughly 60 days to go until the 2022 midterm elections, the race for Florida's U.S. Senate seat is heating up, and recent polls show the race is tightening.
The issue of public safety is taking center stage in the midterm elections, including the Sunshine State. Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic nominee, is highlighting her background as a former police chief, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is touting his law enforcement endorsements.
A recent poll conducted by AARP shows that Sen. Rubio and Rep. Demings are neck and neck, with the Republican leading 49-47, within the poll's margin of error. Of those polled, the survey shows 92% of Democrats support Demings, while 90% of Republicans support Rubio.
Recently, both camps have released ads trying to hone in on the issue of fighting crime. Deming brands herself as "Chief Val Demings" in her latest commercial, highlighting her tenure as chief of the Orlando Police Department, while Rubio showcases support from the family members of law enforcement officers.
Val Demings said in an ad that "as a police officer, some of the worst cases she's worked on were sexual assaults.
In a competing fashion, Rubio's ad showed endorsements from people who say they trust his "commitment to law enforcement officers as they continue to do one of the toughest jobs in the nation."
Demings' tenure as Orlando's police chief capped a 27-year career with the Orlando Police Department. She was the first woman to lead the department.
While Rubio hasn't worked in law enforcement, he does carry the endorsement of 55 of Florida's sheriffs, the vast majority of the state's law enforcement leaders.
Rubio targeted Demings with claims that she praised calls to defund the police, but a fact check from Politifact said that the Republican "mischaracterized" her stance.
Christopher Warshaw, a professor of political science at George Washington University, says it makes sense for Demings to tout her experience as a former police chief to broaden her appeal and counter the Republican attacks on Democrats as being soft on crime.
"It sort of positions you as moderate on crime and law and order issues ... most moderate voters at least kind of trust the heads of police to deal with crime," Warshaw added.
Florida's senate race is anticipated to be one of the most closely watched races in the nation with both candidates raising and spending tens of millions of dollars.