Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) is launching a campaign to oust Republican Sen. Rick Scott, she announced Tuesday morning, becoming the highest-profile Democrat to announce a Senate bid in Republican-trending Florida.
Her entry into the race marks an attempt by Democrats to make Florida a major Senate battleground in 2024, a year when keeping their 51-seat majority in Congress’ upper chamber intact depends on defending a number of seats in deep-red political territory, and their offensive opportunities are limited to Florida and Texas, another large and expensive state where Democrats have struggled.
A poll commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and released last week showed Scott’s approval rating was underwater in Florida and argued that Mucarsel-Powell has a path to victory. Florida Democrats, however, are on a lengthy statewide losing streak as Latino voters in South Florida ― Mucarsel-Powell’s home turf ― desert the party for the GOP.
Mucarsel-Powell, a fundraising executive and native of Ecuador, was the first South American immigrant elected to Congress when she won a House seat in 2018. In her launch video, she emphasized Scott’s opposition to abortion rights and gun control and reiterated many attacks the White House and other top Democrats launched against a policy agenda Scott rolled out when he chaired Senate Republicans’ campaign arm during the 2022 midterm elections.
“He cut taxes for himself, but he’d raise them on you,” Mucarsel-Powell says in the ad. “He wrote the plan that could take away the Social Security and Medicare you worked and paid for.”
Mucarsel-Powell aims to contrast her own humble origins ― she notes she worked in a doughnut shop for minimum wage after immigrating to the United States when she was 14 ― with Scott’s career as a CEO at a company “that made a fortune robbing Medicare,” as she puts it in her launch video.
Scott is known for spending heavily to boost his own campaigns ― he’s poured hundred of millions of dollars into two winning runs for governor and a winning Senate campaign in 2018 ― and Mucarsel-Powell will need significant fundraising to keep up and have a shot at winning in Florida, whose multiple massive media markets make it one of the most expensive states in the country to campaign in.
Mucarsel-Powell lost her seat in 2020 to Republican Carlos Giménez after a single term in Congress, as then-President Donald Trump romped in Florida, including making unprecedented gains in Latino-heavy South Florida.
Since leaving office, Mucarsel-Powell has worked as an adviser to Giffords, the gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Mucarsel-Powell, at the moment, will be a heavy favorite in the primary against a variety of lesser-known candidate and potentially former Rep. Alan Grayson, a scandal-plagued progressive who has filed paperwork to run for the Senate but has not actually announced a bid yet.