Meet the contenders running to oust the two-time Republican senator seeking his third term in 2022.
On June 9, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) made her Senate bid official, announcing a plan to challenge Republican Marco Rubio, the two-term Republican senator seeking his third appointment in 2022.
Demings, Orlando’s first woman chief of police, made the announcement in a 3-minute video in which she shared her story of growing up as a poor, Black woman in the South, and how this shaped her character and prepared her for public office.
“I’ve never tired of standing up for what I believe is right,” she said. “Now I’m running for the United States Senate because of two simple words: never tire.”
But Demings—whom many see as Rubio’s strongest challenger—is not the only one aiming to oust the incumbent, with some contenders, like Josh Weil, even joining the #RetireRubio branding. Here are four promising challengers.
Allen Ellison: ‘Enough Is Enough’
The two-time congressional candidate says he is tired of watching career politicians do nothing for the people.
“We have watched them fill this nation with hate through their divisive rhetoric, and we have watched them line their pockets at the expense of the American people, while our fellow citizens struggle to make ends meet,” Ellison said in a prepared statement. “We are in desperate need [of] visionary leaders with fresh ideas who care about the issues that matter to all of us.”
For Ellison, these include health care and criminal justice reform. On health care, he wants to build on the success of the ACA to achieve the goal of universal health care to help the twenty-nine million Americans who do not have health insurance, and the millions more who are underinsured because of the high copayments and deductibles charged by private health insurance companies. Ellison also believes there is a need to reform the criminal justice system, including abolishing the death penalty and banning private prisons and detention centers.
Alan Grayson: A Progressive Champion
“Grayson vs. Rubio—it’s on,” former Rep. Alan Grayson declared as he released an attack ad against Sen. Marco Rubio, whom he accuses of having spent years defrauding the people of Florida.
The accusations run the gamut to from using a Republican Party of Florida credit card while he served as Speaker of the House, to his high vote absentee record while he ran for president in 2016.
Grayson, who calls himself a “progressive champion,” grew up in the Bronx, New York, and lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife and five children. He is widely seen as someone who could be bold and unabashed in his liberal politics. Still, he believes beating Rubio is a possibility in the red-leaning Sunshine State.
“We can beat Rubio, and Keep the Senate Blue, if we work together. Join us!” Grayson tweeted.
Ken Russell: ‘Let’s Clean Up the Senate’
City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell announced that he is “running for US Senate to defeat Marco Rubio” in order to “clean up the Senate and restore our country’s character.”
Russell has slammed career politicians by saying they “have it all backwards…they just talk. They don’t actually do anything or build anything,” and says he is running to help with Florida’s critical climate change issues, the same ones he has championed as commissioner. These include water quality, sea level rise, and the Everglades restoration.
Another top priority is to reignite the state’s economy by investing in infrastructure, revitalizing small businesses, and generating clean energy along with “green” jobs.
William J. Sánchez: ‘Build a Robust Future for Florida’
William J. Sánchez was born in New York to Cuban immigrant parents. Committed to fighting for the marginalized, the poor, older adults who cannot pay their bills, and the children whose parents can’t afford health insurance, he vows to “protect the most vulnerable and strengthen the middle class to build a robust future for Florida.”
Sánchez, who has worked on numerous cases appearing before immigration courts and numerous federal courts, counts among his clients Haitian and Mexican farmworkers, Cuban refugees, and immigrants hoping to build their dreams in the United States. For this reason, as senator he promises to fight for immigration reform that provides “pathways to citizenship for the undocumented, enshrined protection for the nearly 700,000 DACA Dreamers in the United States, an expansion of refugee camps, and a breaking up of ICE, returning their responsibilities to the Department of Justice.”
A believer that “healthcare is a human right, ” Sánchez also wants to institute a single-payer Medicare for All so that every American is insured and properly covered. The implementation of universal child care is a must for the Democrat, who thinks that every child, regardless of income, must have access to high-quality preschool education.