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Mucarsel-Powell enters race to challenge Scott in Florida

Former House member hits GOP senator over Social Security, Medicare

Florida Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who launched a bid for Senate on Tuesday, campaigns in 2018 in Miami for the House seat she won that year and then lost in 2020.
Florida Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who launched a bid for Senate on Tuesday, campaigns in 2018 in Miami for the House seat she won that year and then lost in 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is running to challenge GOP Sen. Rick Scott in Florida, a state where Democrats hope to go on offense in an otherwise challenging election cycle.

“We made history together when I became the first South American immigrant ever elected to Congress,” Mucarsel-Powell, who was born in Ecuador, said in a video announcing her campaign Tuesday. “I’ve already fought guys like Rick Scott and beat them.”

Her entrance into the race could give Democrats a chance to compete in a state where the party hasn’t won a Senate race since 2012. Still, Mucarsel-Powell would face an uphill climb if she becomes her party’s nominee against Scott, a former governor and wealthy hospital group CEO seeking a second term. 

Democrats are optimistic that a strong candidate could put the race on the map. Still, with many incumbents to protect in swing states including West Virginia, Montana and Ohio, it’s not clear what resources the national party will have to direct to states like Florida and Texas, which lean Republican but are competitive. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Florida race as Solid Republican. 

A recent Global Strategy Group poll conducted on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found Scott led Mucarsel-Powell 44 percent to 43 percent, according to the news site Florida Politics. The report said that head-to-head result showed up only after pollsters read respondents “positive profiles” on each candidate.

Scott won his first term in 2018 by 0.2 percentage points, ousting Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

In her launch video, Mucarsel-Powell referenced a plan Scott released last year that would sunset all federal programs after five years and require Congress to reauthorize them. After criticism from Democrats and some in his own party, Scott revised the plan to exempt Medicare and Social Security, but Democrats have continued to focus on the programs in criticizing the plan. 

Rick Scott is trying to raise taxes on our families, he wrote a plan to end Social Security and Medicare coverage, and is trying to strip away abortion rights. Rick Scott is a fraud, and in Florida we know it,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement. 

Scott chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle and has clashed with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. 

Muscarsel-Powell served one term in the House after she was elected during the blue wave of 2018, before losing by 3 points to Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez in 2020.

She immigrated to the United States at age 14 with her mother and sisters. While in high school, she worked for minimum wage at a doughnut shop.  Her father, who was divorced from her mother, was later shot to death in an apparent street crime in Ecuador, a moment that she points to in a campaign launch video. 

“That’s why I fight every day to keep our children and our communities safe,” she said. 

While in Congress, she was a loud critic of a facility in her district in Homestead, Fla., where children who had been separated from their parents after crossing the southern border were housed under a Trump administration policy. 

Phil Ehr, a Navy veteran, launched a campaign for the Democratic Senate nomination last month. Ehr previously challenged GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, losing a 2020 House race by 31 points. 

Fentrice Driskell, the state House minority leader, told NBC News on Monday she was passing on a Senate run. 

Priscilla Ivasco, communications director for Scott’s campaign, called Mucarsel-Powell a “radical socialist” in a statement.

“We’d like to welcome yet another failed congressional candidate to the crowded Democrat primary,” Ivasco said. “Floridians already rejected her once and they will reject her again.”

While Mucarsel-Powell raised nearly $7 million for her unsuccessful House reelection campaign during the 2020 cycle, she had just $11,000 in her campaign account at the end of 2020 according to Federal Election Commission filings. Scott, meanwhile, loaned his campaign $4 million in 2022 and had $2.9 million in his account at the end of June. 

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