The sky split open to reveal a rainbow of reason Jan. 9 as former Orlando police chief (and congressional candidate) Val Demings took to the swans at Lake Eola to squawk out her formal campaign announcement for Orange County Mayor. Actually, there were no rainbows, but there were T-shirts in myriad colors representing various public safety organizations (cough, unions) meant to boost Demings in her underdog attempt against Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ bulging lobbyist purse. Demings was a stunner in her formal red-dress-and-pearls ensemble (it looked a lot like the dress she wore when she gave a fired-up gay-rights speech at Lake Eola last summer, but we’re gay and we digress), regaling the assembled 150 to 200 people with the kind of platitudes we’ve become accustomed to in the nice parts of political seasons.
“I see an Orange County that looks like you, an Orange County that looks like me,” she said, before whooping up a whole lot of benign talk about leadership and her record. (Later, Fox 35 News reporter Mike Synan would ask about her opponent’s ethical issues, but she didn’t even bite).
In some ways, Demings’ arm’s-length demeanor makes a lot of sense, considering that Jacobs wasted no time last week showing the cracks in her own veneer. Upon hearing of Demings’ pending public announcement, Jacobs called into question whether the former police chief had the right stuff to be a figurehead who texts lobbyist friends to form her opinions during actual live meetings on the dais, subsequently breaking the law.
“I would not run for sheriff because I am not qualified to be sheriff and I think qualification is an issue and it will be an issue in the race,” Jacobs unraveled to the local media on Jan. 7.
Demings made it clear on Thursday that she has been in management before, shuffled millions before, saved taxpayers’ money before, and been the first woman police chief in Orlando before, thank you very much. In an interesting twist, even though the Orange County Mayoral race is presently (there’s a petition!) nonpartisan, some of Jacobs’ most painful kicks might be coming from within her own party.
“I’m really looking forward to welcoming Teresa Jacobs to my ‘Defeated Elected Officials’ club. She is a worthy addition,” former Republican almost-House-Speaker-who-failed Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, tweeted upon Demings’ announcement. “#RunValRun.”