With Congressional District 10 now almost a certain Democratic victory, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to Orlando Tuesday to stand with the national party’s choice, calling Val Demings ‘battle-tested’ and a woman of faith and strength.
Pelosi appeared with Demings at a small rally and tour at a historic retail building in the once-troubled historically black Washington Shores neighborhood Wednesday. It is a place Demings took some credit for helping revive when she Orlando police chief, spending time not just fighting crime but on community restoration.
The backdrop of the Village Square commercial center gave Demings a chance to tout her own success story, rising from poverty, and gave Pelosi, the California Democrat and former House Speaker who endorsed Demings in January, the chance to laud her as someone who could play a unique role in Congress.
“When Val comes to the Congress of the United States with her courage, with her faith, with her hope, with her charity, with her sense of security, she will bring unique leadership to the Congress,” Pelosi said. “Because few people in Congress, some, not many, have her security credentials…. She will be a strong voice not only for national security but neighborhood security.”
Demings touted her record as a police officer and chief both for how it has led her to serve the community, but also as a platform to understand security, as she addressed national security.
“Look at my record of service. And every person standing in here, every person, knows that I will say I will say what I am going to do and I will fight for you as long as I have breath in my body,” Demings said.
The district was redrawn last year as a minority-majority voter district and overwhelmingly Democratic. Still, a Democratic election was no sure thing until Monday, when incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Winter Garden announced he would not seek re-election there. Instead, Webster plans to run in neighboring Congressional District 11.
That means that the district’s next representative to Congress is likely to be the winner of the August Democratic primary between Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, businessman Bob Poe and Orlando attorney Fatima Rita Fahmy.
“Now we can talk about owning a home and quality education and making a decent wage. But if you’re not able to be safe and secure in this nation and safe and secure in your homes and in your neighborhoods, that has to be the number one priority where everything else is built upon,” she said.
She also turned attention to allegations of police abuse so widely held in poor and particularly black communities such as Washington Shores and many other neighborhoods in CD 10.
“I also want you to know I spent 27 years in law enforcement, a profession that I loved, a profession that I grew up in, and I am not deaf, and I am not blind,” she said.
“We know the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers are good, decent, hard-working people. But from Ferguson to Baltimore, to Statin Island, to Cleveland to South Charleston, we’ve had some issues,” Demings said. “We’ve had some problems. And we have to make sure that we not only continue to hire the brightest and best to do the job, but once they are hired we have to make sure they receive the best training, including the sensitivity training that they need so they can police effectively the diverse communities that we police.”
The event was partially backdropped and momentarily disrupted by Fahmy and some of her supporters. She came to challenge Pelosi, asking why the Democratic congressional leadership had thrown full support behind Demings when there are three other Democrats in the CD 10 primary race.
Pelosi ignored Fahmy at that moment, but responded later, referring to Demings’ close 2012 loss to Webster back when the District leaned Republican.
“This is about quality of leadership that Val Demings brings,” Pelosi said. “It’s about being battle-tested. She can win.”
It was the second time in less than a month that Fahmy had crashed one of Demings’ events in order to protest national Democratic congressional support for her. On Feb. 1 Fahmy did so at an event featuring Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.
“They [Congressional Democratic leaders] want the other three candidates to just go away,” Fahmy said later. “I want to make sure the people of Orange County and the people of District 10 understand they are being manipulated and the process is rigged.”