Democratic Rep. Val Demings plans to launch a Senate challenge against incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida next year, a national Democrat with knowledge of the party's strategy on Senate races told CNBC.
Demings had previously confirmed she was looking at a bid for higher office. She had not discounted the possibility of a gubernatorial campaign to take on the Sunshine State's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Her decision to instead seek a Senate seat comes as Democrats look to defend their razor-thin majority in the chamber from Republicans eager to win back the congressional power they lost in the 2020 cycle.
“Val is an impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive,” the Democratic source said.
Politico, which first reported Demings' plans, said the Democrat still has a smidgen of room to change course, but plans to make her final decision on the race as early as next month.
In the 2020 election cycle, Demings was seen as a top contender on then-candidate Joe Biden's list of potential vice presidential picks.
Now a third-term member of Congress, the 64-year-old Demings was the first Black woman to serve a chief of police in Orlando, Florida. She had also served in a high-profile role as a Democratic impeachment manager in the Senate trial following former President Donald Trump‘s first impeachment in the House in late 2019.
Trump was acquitted in the GOP-held Senate on the articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Biden ultimately picked former California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Rubio, 49, has already announced he plans to run for a third term in the Senate in 2022. Political analysts currently say his seat is likely to stay in Republican hands.
A spokesman for Rubio did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Demings' plans.
Florida, long a crucial battleground in presidential elections, has in recent years become a Republican stronghold. The state currently has two Republican senators and a Republican governor, and it went for Trump over Biden in the 2020 race.
Earlier this month, DeSantis signed into law a sweeping election bill that critics says will suppress voter turnout and disproportionately affect certain demographics.
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