A barrier-breaking leader in effective law enforcement
Lifelong Floridian Val Demings is the daughter of a janitor and a maid, and the youngest of seven children. Val attended a segregated school until sixth grade, and overcame tremendous hardship and discrimination. When she attended an integrated school for the first time, she was selected for the "school patrol" to assist her fellow students — an experience that inspired her lifelong career of public service. Val says her parents taught her “if you don’t like something, then you do something to change it,” so she entered the police academy to make a difference. Despite her small stature, Val was unstoppable. “Brains are much more important than brawn in police work,” she has said. One of the very few women in her class, Val excelled: she was elected class president by her peers and graduated at the top of her class. After 24 years of distinguished service in Orlando law enforcement, Val became the first woman appointed as chief of police in 2007. Violent crime had risen to an all-time high in Orlando the year before Val became chief, and under her leadership violent crime dropped by 40 percent. Val ran for Congress to fight for criminal justice reform and economic opportunity for women and families — issues she understands are deeply connected. She will bring her unique experience as a law enforcement officer and an African American mother to the table when she advocates for justice.
A progressive champion for Florida women and families
Growing up in an African American working-class family in the segregated South, Val refused to let anyone discourage her. “The more people told me I could not do something, it just made me more and more determined to do just that,” she has said. As a teenager, Val was inspired by the courage of presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress. Val will fight for equal rights for all women and families. After graduating from Florida State University, she became a social worker in foster care, and she continued working to protect her community’s most vulnerable children once she entered law enforcement. When Val spearheaded a successful effort to reduce violent crime in one of Orlando’s most troubled areas, her innovative program improved the relationship between the police and the community they serve. In partnership with the community, she launched a project that included increasing access to childcare, building playgrounds, a GED program, and job skills training to improve quality of life in Orlando’s most at-risk community. Val will champion policies that increase economic opportunity for all. Val believes that we must address problems like gender discrimination in pay, violence against women and girls, and struggling schools on a national level.
An opportunity in a newly-drawn district
In 2012 Val ran a tough campaign in Florida’s 10th District against an extreme Republican congressman in what was then a Republican-leaning district. Because of Val’s reputation as a powerful champion for choice, conservative Republicans like Mike Huckabee rallied to raise money for her opponent. This time around — because Florida redrew its congressional districts under court order — the district leaned Democratic, and hardworking women and families in this newly drawn district finally had the chance to be represented in Congress by someone who will stand up for them. With the full support of the EMILY’s List community, including a $80,000 voter contact program by WOMEN VOTE!, Val was victorious in 2016.