WASHINGTON — Just hours after Rep. Val Demings officially announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, the man she wants to unseat, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), made clear how he will campaign against her. 

What You Need To Know

  •  U.S. Rep. Val Demings announced Wednesday she plans to run for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio

  •  Demings is expected to have primary opponents, but has already positioned herself as the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination

  • Rubio claims the two-term congresswoman is a far left "do nothing Democrat"
  • The race for Florida's Senate seat is expected to be one of the more closely watched in 2022

“She has no real achievements during her time in Washington,” Rubio said in an exclusive interview with Spectrum News on Wednesday. 

Wasting no time trying to define Demings, Rubio called her a “do nothing Democrat” who aligns with her party’s far left wing. 

“This is someone who has voted for 94% of the time with the Ocasio-Cortez squad and 100% of the time with Pelosi. So, that’s a pretty clear choice with those radical positions,” he said, referring to Rep. Alxandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.

Demings, a two-term congresswoman, likely will face a primary, but she is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination. The general election battle for Florida’s Senate seat is expected to be one of the more closely watched races in the country next year.

Demings was an Orlando police officer who rose through the ranks to become the chief of police, and the American Civil Liberties Union says she voted with its positions in Congress only 70% of the time. Democrats think such attributes will help to inoculate Demings from any accusations she is too far to the left. But Rubio is having none of it. 

“I think if you think someone who votes, for example, against a ban deporting gang members, if you think that’s in the center. If you think voting for a bill that prohibits states from asking for ID’s from voters is in the center, if people think that’s in the center, I don’t know what the center is,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s campaign and Florida Republicans are also describing Demings as a “Pelosi puppet” — a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rubio rejects any suggestion the same could be said about him and former President Donald Trump. 

“I have a record of getting things done," he said. "That sometimes meant me and President Trump didn’t agree on things."

"I strongly believed that the Constitution did not allow a president to take money from the military and put it into another deal. Even though I supported the wall, I didn’t support that,” he added.

The two-term senator did break with Trump in voting in January to certify the 2020 election. When asked about the former president’s false claim last weekend that his defeat was the “crime of the century,” Rubio said he’s seen no evidence of problems that would have changed the outcome. 

“I know the overwhelming majority of states had problem-free elections, and that includes Florida,” he said. 

"In the states where problems arose, they arose primarily because those states had last minute changes to their voting laws, including massive amounts of mail voting that they had never handled before and they didn’t handle it well," Rubio said. "Any election that you look at, if you were to examine it, you’re going to find instances of people that voted that shouldn’t have voted. Or instances of votes that should have been counted that weren’t. The issue is was it enough to change the outcome of the election, I have seen no evidence of that.”

Still, Rubio expects the former president will campaign with him when the time comes. Until then, he plans to highlight his own record. 

The University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University ranked Rubio as the most effective Republican lawmaker in the U.S. Senate.

“I wrote and passed the PPP bill. I wrote and passed the VA accountability bill. I’ve been a top leader in the Senate in getting the Everglades in Florida funded again,” Rubio said.

As the race for his seat officially begins, Rubio acknowledges it will be a competitive one.

“You never take anything for granted. You shouldn’t," he said. "From a strategic view, Florida is a competitive state and always has been."

Rubio won re-election in 2016 by seven percentage points. However, many expect this upcoming race to be the most significant challenge Rubio has faced thus far in his political career. His early attacks against Demings show he is taking her challenge seriously.