Demings wouldn’t engage in direct political talk when I asked her about Biden’s remaining rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), especially given his comments about the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Demings’s reticence was unsurprising since we were sitting in her Capitol Hill office, where such talk runs afoul of the rules. But she found a way to get her point across.
“I certainly will not guess about what Sen. Sanders said or what he meant to say. But what I do know is that several people who live in a very diverse state were upset by those comments,” Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, told me when I asked whether Sanders’s praise for Castro’s literacy programs was damaging in the Sunshine State. “We’re in the middle of a race. We’re going to let Floridians decide.”
Floridians will have to make another decision come November between the Democratic nominee and President Trump, who is making a concerted effort to court Latino voters in Florida. Demings isn’t worried.
“My husband likes to say the best indicator of future performance is to look at past performance,” she said of her husband, Jerry Demings, mayor of Orange County, Fla., who has also served as Orlando police chief, the first black person to hold the position. “Donald Trump ... has been a divider. He has said racist, derogatory things about people of color long before he entered into politics. He didn’t change his spots when he entered into politics. And certainly, he has now become the divider in chief. I don’t know whether he thinks people of color, black and brown people, are not paying attention, or maybe he believes that we have short memories. But what’s etched in my memory is this man who has a very inhumane policy of separating families at the southern border.”
The congresswoman added: “He can run all the ads he wants to. It does not erase reality, those pictures that are etched in our brains of his inhumane treatment and derogatory remarks about black and brown people.”
Demings was most animated when talking about the president. Not surprising given her role in Trump’s impeachment. She is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which investigated whether the president withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Biden and his son. Demings is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which used the intelligence committee’s findings and its own hearings to bring two articles of impeachment against Trump. And she was one of the seven impeachment managers selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to argue the case against the president before the Senate.
“The American people have entrusted their hopes and dreams into [Trump’s] hands, and he has abused that authority and abused it to try to cheat in the 2020 election," Demings said, adding, "He tried to cheat to win, and then when he was caught, he used that same authority to obstruct our ability to investigate.”
As a result of her role during all those hearings and the 20-day impeachment trial in the Senate, Demings has found herself the subject of speculation about a potential vice-presidential nomination. Her name joins Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on the list of African American women being talked about for the No. 2 job. When I asked Abrams whether she wanted to be considered for vice president during an interview in December, Abrams was direct.
“I’m a black woman who’s in a conversation about possibly being second in command to the leader of the free world, and I will not diminish my ambition or the ambition of any other women of color by saying that’s not something I’d be willing to do,” Abrams said to applause.
When I asked Demings whether she wanted to run for vice president, the two-term member of Congress also leaned in: “I grew up the daughter of a maid and a janitor. I grew up poor, black and female in the South, someone who was told a lot of times that I wasn’t the right color or gender. But my mother pushed me and said, ‘No, you can make it. If you work hard and play by the rules, you can be anything you wanna be and do anything you wanna do,' ” Demings said. “So the fact that my name is being called in such a special way for such an important position during such a critical time, it’s such an honor.”
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