Demings said the Republican had “done nothing to address gun violence” and accused him of making “promises you had no intention of keeping” to parents of the Parkland Massacre, when a 19-year-old killed 17 people. A jury last week sentenced the shooter to life in prison, opting against the death penalty in a case that has sparked bipartisan calls for action to prevent further killings.
“How long are you going to watch people get shot in freshman grade, fourth grade, high school, college, church, synagogue, grocery store, movie theater, mall, and nightclub — and do nothing?” Demings said, pointing as his voice rose.
The back-and-forth was one of many heated exchanges in the debate, where Demings said Rubio ‘never said anything but his mouth’ and Rubio accused the Democrat of not doing great -thing as a legislator. Rubio is the favorite to win, but polls have shown Demings, a former Orlando police chief, was within reach as she outspent her opponent, pouring more than $35 million into ads this year.
Defending his stance on gun regulations, Rubio pointed to recent shootings in which he said attackers showed signs they would take up arms. He faulted Democrats for not supporting his proposed version of a red flag law that would take guns away from people deemed dangerous. And he criticized gun control legislation that Congress passed this year with some Republican support, calling it “crazy” and suggesting it would allow guns to be seized in too many situations.
“I think the solution [to] that problem is identifying those people who act that way,” he said.
Disputing that he hadn’t fixed the problem, Rubio pointed to a Department of Homeland Security website with resources on school safety. Demings ridiculed this as insufficient.
“He thought he would get a pass!” she says.
The candidates also tangled over abortion. When asked if he would vote for a federal abortion ban with no exceptions, Rubio repeatedly declined to answer directly and said no such legislation was politically feasible. He has previously said he “does not believe that the dignity and value of human life is tied to the circumstances of their conception” – apparently ruling out exceptions in cases of rape and incest – while acknowledging that most of Americans do not share his view.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that he was “one hundred percent pro-life”, but said every bill he had backed included exceptions because “that’s what can pass”. He recently backed a proposed federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and defended the measure as reasonable and consistent with many other countries.
Demings said: “As a police detective who has investigated cases of rape and incest, not a senator, I don’t think it’s acceptable for a 10-year-old girl to be raped and wear the seed of her rapist.”
Rubio then pressed the moderator to ask Demings what abortion limits she would support. She replied that she supported access to abortion “until the moment of [fetal] viability”, approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Throughout the debate, Rubio drew some contrasts with his fellow Republicans. He argued that he had “hired” his party to expand child tax credits. And he said he would not support fellow Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)’s proposal to have Congress review Social Security and Medicare every five years.
As part of a 12-point plan, Scott proposed to “end” all federal programs after five years, meaning they would expire unless renewed. “If a law is worth obeying, Congress can pass it again,” Scott says in his proposal. This would include social security and health insurance programs.
Several Republican leaders rejected Scott’s proposal, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats this campaign season have used the proposal as an attack on their Republican opponents, warning voters that if the GOP gains control of the House and Senate, they will put Medicare and Social Security “on the chopping block.” “.
Rubio was asked if he supported putting those federal rights on the “chop every five years.”
“No, that’s not my plan,” he said. “It’s Senator Scott; he does a great job.
Asked if he would accept the results of this year’s election, Rubio said “Florida has good election laws” and defended GOP-led voting restrictions enacted in other states. Pressed to respond directly, he reiterated, “We have great laws in Florida, absolutely,” then – more emphatically – said “sure” before criticizing election laws in other states like Pennsylvania.
Rubio did not embrace former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. But his campaign did not respond earlier when the Washington Post asked candidates in this year’s most-watched races whether they would accept the outcome of their election.
Rubio criticized Demings’ support for a nationwide voting rights law that he and other Republicans have attacked as a “federal takeover” of the election. He defended voter ID requirements saying, “I’m a minority, I’ve never wanted to produce ID, which hurts my ability to vote.” Demings suggested the idea of making sure every person can vote “scares the senator to death.”