Battleground Democrats Support Law Enforcement 2 Years After Defund the Police

Election 2022 Senate Florida Demings
FILE: US Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., center, the Democratic nominee for the US Senate, addresses supporters while her family members speak during a primary election party Tuesday, August 23, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. stand behind her.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

As Rep. Val Demings As she took to the stage for her victory speech in Orlando on Tuesday after winning the Democratic Senate primary, she was greeted with blue and yellow signs that read “CHIEF.”

She held that title for four years in Orlando, where she was the city’s first female police chief. It’s also a title she’s spent millions on ads in her Senate campaign to emphasize, with the title “Chief” — not “Congressman” — attached to her name.

“I’m not playing the police. i am the police I’m a law enforcement officer,” Demings told CBS News outside her elementary school, where she won with over 84% of the vote. The Florida Democrat, who will face Republican Senator Marco Rubio in the fall, served 27 years with the Orlando Police Department.

“I think it helped me to take that experience with me as Congressional Chair,” Demings added. “As a law enforcement officer, I cannot tell you which political party the vast majority of men and women have colluded with. It didn’t matter. We had a mission and that was to protect our community.”

Demings is one of several statewide Democratic candidates in competitive races to lean into their law-and-order ties two years after widespread protests and riots over police brutality as crime levels steadily rise in major cities.

Democrats spent estimated $37.6 million for crime-related ads this year, usually a top issue for Republicans. Democrats are still trailing Republicans, who spent an estimated $56.1 Millions in this type of ad spend, according to an analysis of data from AdImpact. Independent candidates have spent an estimated $5.1 million, bringing the estimated total spend on criminal ads to just under $100 million.

2021, Murders in American cities up 5% compared to 2020 and 44% compared to 2019, according to the Criminal Justice Council. Data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows that from 2019 to 2020, homicides increased everywhere — in cities, rural counties, and suburbs.

Deming’s move to highlight her law enforcement background comes two years after Republicans used the Defund the Police movement that emerged from the summer’s protests as a political bludgeon against vulnerable Democrats.

This aggressive messaging approach caught House Democrats by surprise and helped the Republicans to 15 seats in the US House in an otherwise good political year for Democrats, which turned the White House and Senate around.

Democratic candidates this year have not only sought to distance themselves from the 2020 Defund the Police movement, but also criticized it.

Announcing the Formula 1 race in Las Vegas 2023
FILE: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 30: Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak speaks during the announcement of the 2023 Las Vegas Formula One race at the Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on March 30, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

In a Demings ad, she calls it “crazy.” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, one of the most vulnerable Democratic governors standing for election this November, has posted an ad touting the percentage of the state budget that is earmarked for law enforcement.

“We support our state police at a higher percentage than any other state in the country,” Sisolak said. “I don’t think the vast majority of people are in favor of exonerating the police. There are isolated cases that you see nationwide that involve unwarranted shootings — but these are the exception. That’s not the rule.”

According to Pew Research polls, from June 2020 to October 2021, there was a 16% increase in voters who believe more police spending should be made in their area and a 10% decrease in those who say it will be reduced should.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat, named Demings chief in 2007 and said Deming’s background in law enforcement puts her in a good position.”

On Tuesday, Rubio accused Demings of not speaking out enough against the police reform movement during the 2020 protests. He also suggested that her background in law enforcement makes her just a potential vice presidential nominee for President Joe Biden in 2020.

“The left wing of her radical party hated cops. And she was a police officer. That was a negative thing for her. So she decided, ‘I must be an ex-cop who attacks cops.’ And she did,” Rubio said on Tuesday.

“Now she says she is against disappointing the police two years later. They didn’t need you to say it now, they needed you to say it when people were burning down the streets and setting police cars on fire,” he added.

In response, Demings said Rubio’s attack “shows the desperation” of his campaign and criticized Rubio for not pushing back enough against Republican calls after the Mar-a-Lago search to disappoint the FBI.

“One of the things I learned as a police officer – don’t just listen to what people are saying. Watch what they do,” Demings said. “Marco Rubio said I didn’t do enough to fight back. But damn it, when the FBI was last attacked — did Marco Rubio do enough to defend these career law enforcement officers and say, ‘Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt?'”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, where the Democratic primary candidates who replaced him showed a shift toward the center of crime, said the more Republicans started talking about defunding the police, the more Democrats saw what a terrible problem it was.

He pointed Democrat Eric Adams‘ Victory for mayor of New York City, where he made crime a focus of his campaign.

“The Democrats have completely resigned, so I think it’s a win. Joe Biden came out in his State of the Union and said, ‘We can’t disappoint the police. We need more money for the police.’ They all started parroting what I’ve been saying for years,” Hogan, a potential Republican presidential nominee for 2024, told CBS News. He spoke to CBS News over the phone on his way to Iowa for a roundtable with law enforcement.

In this cycle, Democrats even go on the offensive against Republican opponents on crime, which voters consistently rank behind the economy, inflation and abortion.

A recent ad by Sisolak underscores Trump’s criticism of the state as a “crime cesspool.” Lombardo.

Sisolak is one of several vulnerable Democrats standing for election in the battleground state of Nevada. In a Suffolk University poll released on Sunday, Sisolak held a three-point lead over Lombardo, within margin of error.

“Lombardo has been sheriff for seven years now. For his supporters to call us a ‘crime cesspool’ I think says something about the job [Trump] believes Lombardo controls crime,” Sisolak told CBS News. “It’s a topic that we will certainly talk about because I think people agree with me more than with him.”

According to Lombardo’s campaign, Trump’s comment directly referred to policies and “soft crime” laws signed by Sisolak, and referred to bills decriminalizing minor traffic violations and a bipartisan law that changed the processes for revoking probation and probation to reduce the state’s prison count.

“Sisolak’s anti-police and soft-on-crime policies are part of the reason Nevada law enforcement doesn’t support Steve Sisolak,” said Elizabeth Ray, director of communications for the Lombardo campaign, noting Lombardo’s endorsement by Nevada Police Union and nearly all state sheriffs.

In Georgia, another battleground state, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and allies have attacked incumbent Republican governor Brian Kemp for signing legislation allowing illicit concealed carry of a handgun.

Meanwhile, the Georgians First Leadership Committee, a pro-Kemp group, has aired at least three ads linking Abrams to the “Defund the Police” movement.

Patrick Gaspard, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said crime was “overwhelmingly dominated in public perception and in reality by gun issues.”

Gaspard served in the administration of former President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013 and as executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

He said Democrats must continue to make a “sharp contrast” with Republicans on the gun issue because it’s an “argument that’s accessible enough for voters who are currently making the connection between gun violence and crime in a way.” , which we have just never seen on this subject.”

In Ohio, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley was mayor of Dayton, Ohio, when nine people were killed in a 2019 shooting.

Whaley said Republican Gov. Mike DeWine called her the day after the shooting and said he was “doing something.” After introducing proposals that would introduce a “red flag” law and background checks, Whaley says DeWine didn’t push it “because he was afraid of extremists in the party.”

That year, DeWine signed legislation that eliminated background check requirements for concealed carry permits and allowed teachers to be armed in schools, although that choice is left to school districts.

“The facts and data show that improving and expanding arrest warrants and protective orders in national databases is of paramount importance in protecting the public and preventing crime,” said Tricia McLaughlin, communications director for the DeWine campaign, who pointed to rising homicide rates at Dayton during Whaley’s tenure from 2014 to 2020.

Some Ohio police officers have signaled concern about expanded access to firearms without a background check.

“Community safety is just a talking point for DeWine, at the end of the day he’ll do whatever the extremists want him to do,” Whaley said. “What’s really important is that we need to make sure that people in Ohio feel safe when they go to a grocery store or when they go to the movies with their friends and family. For me, that is what drives this race.”


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