Former Democratic congresswoman to challenge GOP Senator Rick Scott in Florida

August 23, 2023

Former Democratic congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell launched a campaign on Tuesday, August 22, in Florida to challenge Senator Rick Scott (R)—the former governor who is seeking reelection in 2024 to his second Senate term, reports The Washington Post.

In a campaign video posted Tuesday entitled Do Something About It, Mucarsel-Powell, 52, cast Scott as someone who would support a national abortion plan, threaten Social Security and Medicare, and raise taxes on lower-income Americans.

“Ya no más,” Mucarsel-Powell says in the video, using the Spanish for “no more.” “I’m an immigrant, a Latina, a mother. … I’ve already fought guys like Rick Scott and beat them.”

Mucarsel-Powell, who was born in Ecuador, defeated Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo in 2018 to represent South Florida’s 26th Congressional District—becoming the first immigrant from South America to be elected to Congress. She served one term and lost her 2020 reelection campaign to now-Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Florida), the former mayor of Miami-Dade County.

Priscilla Ivasco, the communications director for Scott’s campaign, said in a statement that Floridians had already rejected Mucarsel-Powell once “and they will reject her again.”

“Former Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell is a radical socialist who voted 100% of the time with Nancy Pelosi during her short tenure in Congress, which is why the voters of South Florida booted her out of office the first chance they got,” the statement said.

Following her 2020 reelection loss, Mucarsel-Powell rejected a push by national Democrats encouraging her to challenge Gimenez. She instead devoted herself to combating Spanish-language disinformation, which she has previously said played a role in why she lost her reelection campaign.

Several people familiar with Mucarsel-Powell’s candidacy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to outline internal campaign decisions, said her decision to run for Senate hinged on seeing a pathway to beat Scott even though Republicans have recently shown a consistent hold on the Sunshine State. A Democratic presidential or Senate candidate has not won Florida since President Barack Obama carried the state in 2012.

A senior adviser to her campaign said her candidacy to become the second Latina elected to the Senate could help galvanize Hispanic voters who were once a reliable base for Democrats but have recently sat out elections or expressed openness to Republicans. The first step is introducing her to those voters outside her Miami community, the adviser said.

Mucarsel-Powell immigrated to the United States with her mother and three older sisters when she was 14 years old. Like many immigrants, she worked several jobs to keep her family economically afloat and has often said how only in America could she have a path to run and win national office. It’s a message she is likely to continue to lean on during her Senate campaign—describing herself as a “minimum-wage earning South American immigrant”—as she seeks to resonate among working-class communities.

Mucarsel-Powell is the second major Democrat to announce plans to challenge Scott for his Senate seat. Last month, retired Navy officer and former Republican Phil Ehr launched a Senate campaign; also criticizing Scott for past proposals, including one that would require Congress to reauthorize all laws every five years. Although his plan did not explicitly mention Social Security or Medicare, Democrats were quick to point out that the popular entitlement programs were established by law and could be at risk under Scott’s proposal.

Scott’s proposals were part of a broader plan released ahead of last year’s midterm elections, while he was the chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. His plan to “rescue America” also included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of federal income tax—he noted that roughly half pay none—as well as other long-standing conservative projects, such as eliminating the Education Department and declaring that there are only two genders.

A former dean of Florida International University’s School of Medicine, Mucarsel-Powell also plans to lean on her credentials to draw contrasts with Scott on his health-care affordability record and abortion policies, charging that Scott would help institute a federal ban on abortion if reelected.

Still, any Democrat faces an uphill battle to win a statewide election in Florida; which has traditionally been considered a swing state, but where Democrats have struggled in recent years. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) won the state by a nearly 20 percentage points last year in his reelection bid.

Research contact: @washingtonpost