Demings attacks Rubio in Florida Senate debate

MIAMI (AP) – Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings went on the attack Tuesday in her first debate against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, blasting him as a serial liar as Rubio criticized her for supporting President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. Each accused the other of being an extremist on the issue of abortion.

Rubio, a two-term senator, and Demings, a three-term congresswoman and former Orlando police chief, faced questions on topics including inflation, voting rights, gun violence, immigration and foreign policy.

When asked to explain his position on abortion, Rubio dodged the question of whether he would support a federal ban on abortion without exceptions and instead called Demings’ position extreme because she would not say what abortion restrictions she supports.

“Every bill I’ve ever sponsored on abortion and every bill I’ve ever voted for has exceptions,” Rubio said.

“What we do know is that the senator does not support any exceptions,” Demings replied. “He can make his mouth say anything today. He’s good at it, by the way. What day is it and what does Marco Rubio say?”

After the Supreme Court ruling in June overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Rubio expressed his personal opposition to abortion in all cases, while saying he would support abortion-restricting statutes that include exceptions. Demings supports access to abortion at least until the fetus is viable and said doctors should be the ones to determine that.

Rubio will benefit from the growing voter registration advantage that Republicans have over Democrats in an increasingly conservative state. The shift to the right is likely to spread in areas such as Miami-Dade County, Rubio’s home state.

Demings criticized Rubio for his Senate attendance record, while the senator called Demings a “stamp” for Biden’s agenda as the president grapples with inflationary pressures and rising gas prices.

But on Tuesday, Rubio also attacked Demings for not passing legislation in Washington, saying all she did was name two post offices after police officers who died in the line of duty. Demings angrily rejected his characterization.

“It’s shameful that you think honoring a person who was a hero by naming a federal building after them is nothing,” she said.

Demings has repeatedly accused Rubio of distorting her record.

“I’m really disappointed in you because I think there was a time when you didn’t lie to win,” she said.

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