Val Demings uses ‘one of the costliest hurricanes in US history’ to raise campaign funds

Florida Dem embrace Obama admin’s ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ mantra in race against Marco Rubio

National Guardsmen carry ready-to-eat meals to a community cut off by flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian near the Peace River October 4, 2022 in Arcadia, Florida. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Collin Anderson • October 6, 2022 2:15 p.m.

Val Demings, a Democratic Senate candidate from Florida, is using what she calls “one of the costliest hurricanes in US history” to solicit campaign contributions in her race against Republican Marco Rubio.

Demings released a campaign video which highlights the “staggering scale of wreckage” from Hurricane Ian. “Florida’s death toll soars after Hurricane Ian demolished entire communities,” reads a chyron in the video. “Ian may be one of the costliest hurricanes in US history,” said another. But that “wreck” didn’t stop Demings from attaching a fundraising link to the video, which directs viewers to an ActBlue page asking for “a generous donation from the grassroots right now to help my grassroots movement overthrow the Florida blue and enlarge the Senate of the Democrats”. majority.”

A day later, Thursday morning, Demings campaign manager Zack Carroll emailed and texted his supporters lamenting “the unimaginable destruction, loss and grief” witnessed in Florida after Hurricane Ian. . This destruction, Carroll wrote, “meant fundraising took a back seat. Our entire campaign was put on hold last week.” The hurricane-induced break “cost us a lot of time”, according to Carroll, and as a result, “Val Demings is short on fundraising”. “To catch up,” the email continues, “we are calling on this grassroots movement to do something that has never been done: raise $500,000 by midnight.”

Demings is likely hoping the hurricane will give her a chance to change her political fortunes after three straight polls show her trailing Rubio by 4, 7 and 6 points. But the move could backfire as Demings and other Florida Democrats use the storm to boost their campaign coffers. In addition to Demings, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Monday asked those who “suffered the damage from Hurricane Ian” to “share [their] story” through his campaign site. Users who completed the form were redirected on a fundraising page that asked victims to “take the next step and make a quick donation”. Cristo quietly changed the form’s redirect link after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign lambasted Crist online.

Following the publication of this article, Demings spokeswoman Anna Breedlove said Demings “showed up for her community and did her job,” but did not specifically comment on the fundraising video. and email.

Demings also used the hurricane to tout the Democrats’ so-called Cut Inflation Act. During an interview with MSNBC on Sept. 29, Demings said the legislation would help Florida’s “resilience” in the face of hurricanes, as “a large portion” of the bill “will go towards addressing climate change.” Just a day before the interview, National Hurricane Center Acting Director Jamie Rhome warned of the link between Hurricane Ian and climate change after CNN host Don Lemon asked him to “tell us what it is and what effect climate change has on this phenomenon”.

“We can come back and talk about climate change later. I want to focus on the here and now,” Rhome replied. “I don’t think you can tie climate change to a specific event. Overall, overall, climate change can make storms worse. But to tie it to a specific event, I would caution against it.” Lemon was quick to suggest that he might know better than the hurricane expert because he “grew up” in Florida.

About a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida, President Joe Biden visited the area on Wednesday to survey the damage alongside DeSantis. Biden praised the Republican’s response to the storm, saying, “I think he did a good job.”

Update 3:17 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from a Demings spokeswoman.