Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, the former South Florida Democratic congresswoman running for Senate in the increasingly red Sunshine State, says GOP incumbent Rick Scott is losing support even within his party.
Mucarsel-Powell, who served one term in the House and was the first South America-born member of Congress, launched her challenge Tuesday and received a key endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm Friday.
“We need her leadership in the Senate to keep our children and communities safe, to defend Social Security and Medicare, and to protect women’s reproductive rights from the hands of extreme Republicans like Rick Scott,” said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of Bold PAC, the CHC’s campaign organization.
Any Democratic challenger against an incumbent Republican in Florida faces an uphill battle, but Mucarsel-Powell says that in the case of Scott, the climb is not so steep.
“Rick Scott is the least popular politician in Florida and in Washington, D.C. And look, he’s going to do everything in anything to attack me, because he wants to keep the power of that office. He has used that office to enrich himself,” she said.
The 2024 Senate calendar largely benefits Republicans, who have no truly vulnerable incumbents up for reelection, while Democrats are defending seats in states including Ohio and West Virginia.
According to the Cook Political Report, those two Democratic seats are toss-ups, and another five lean Democratic, while nine of 11 Republicans up for reelection are rated as “Solid R.”
The other two, Scott and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), are rated as “likely” winners.
Still, that slight window of opportunity has attracted 10 Democrats, including Mucarsel-Powell, into the primary to challenge Scott.
Scott’s campaign quickly reacted to Mucarsel-Powell’s announcement.
“We’d like to welcome yet another failed congressional candidate to the crowded Democrat primary. 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. Floridians already rejected her once and they will reject her again,” said Scott campaign communications director Priscilla Ivasco.
Mucarsel-Powell’s perspective is that the bespoke statement from a powerful incumbent is a sign.
“The fact that they responded shows that they’re scared. Let’s start there. I’m very proud of my record; when I started running in 2018, I didn’t come from politics, I had worked at [Florida International University] for many years expanding access to health care,” she said.
She also touted her 2018 win over former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who had secured reelection in a finicky district notorious for flipping party allegiances.
Mucarsel-Powell lost reelection in 2020 to Rep. Carlos A. Giménez (R-Fla.), then-mayor of Miami-Dade County, in an election where Democrats lost their two-district foothold in the Miami area.
She said Scott is more vulnerable than public ratings would indicate, given his record in the Senate.
“I’ve been talking to Republicans and Democrats alike. He does nothing, nothing for the state. He does nothing for families here. He voted against every piece of bipartisan legislation that has come for a vote in Washington, D.C.,” said Mucarsell-Powell.
“And on top of that, let’s remember that Rick Scott voted to overturn the election. He has become such an extreme politician, and Americans are done with that. Floridians are done with extremism.”
Scott, who in January 2021 voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electors from the 2020 presidential election, has publicly butted heads with GOP Senate leadership. He unsuccessfully challenged Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to lead Senate Republicans and has engaged in a public feud against the powerful GOP chief.
Still, Scott has the upper hand as an incumbent who has won three statewide elections since his first gubernatorial run.
On Friday, the Latin Builders Association, a South Florida group that bills itself as “the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States,” endorsed his reelection bid.
And though GOP leadership is unlikely to go out of its way to support Scott, a failure to recapture control of the Senate would be seen as a massive loss for McConnell.
Still, Democrats see in Scott the closest thing to a vulnerable Senate Republican with few allies, and some are eager to strike.
“One of the things that I have learned and that I’ve realized and I think that Rick Scott completely lacks, is actually listening to the people that are living here in this state. I’ve been feeling that shift and I’ve been getting calls from Republicans, Democrats, independents, to please step up, to please go and represent them in D.C., because this man has done absolutely nothing, nothing for our state,” Mucarsel-Powell said.