New ad takes aim at Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s voting record as incumbent counters with closing argument

Newly elected Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
The ad tries to tie Mucarsel-Powell to more left-leaning Democrats, but voting data shows the opposite is true.

A new ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is echoing a misleading claim about Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell‘s voting record as the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District nears its end.

The contest has seen misleading allegations from both sides — including from Mucarsel-Powell and her Democratic allies. The claims could well turn the tide in a race expected to be one of the closest contests in Florida this cycle.

The ad from the CLF — a super PAC aimed at electing Republicans to the U.S. House — cites data trying to tie Mucarsel-Powell to the party’s left wing. But additional analysis shows the numbers they use actually undermine their argument.

The ad begins by touting Mucarsel-Powell’s Republican opponent’s record, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez.

“The choice for Congress? Mayor Giménez: charting the right course for South Florida. Biggest tax cut and lowest unemployment in Miami-Dade history,” the ad’s narrator begins.

The ad then calls Giménez an “independent leader” before both the background music and narrator’s tone turn ominous.

“Mucarsel-Powell, her lifestyle bankrolled by the empire of a Ukrainian warlord. [She] votes with [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and the socialists 93% (of the time.) And she’s with [Nancy] Pelosi every time. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell: dangerously partisan, dangerously connected.”

That claim that Mucarsel-Powell votes with Ocasio-Cortez 93% of the time is accurate. The organization uses the high number — 93% — to imply Mucarsel-Powell is in lockstep with one of the most progressive members of the U.S. House.

But that number is among the lowest vote similarity scores between Mucarsel-Powell and any of her Democratic House colleagues. Put another way, it’s a sign that she and Ocasio-Cortez are more out of sync than Mucarsel-Powell and other House Democrats.

Florida Politics analyzed this claim when it made the rounds in a Spanish-language ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). ProPublica, which the CLF and NRCC cite for this claim, analyzes how often members of Congress vote together on legislation.

Florida Politics compared Mucarsel-Powell to each one of her 231 Democratic colleagues. On average, Mucarsel-Powell voted with her fellow Democrats 97% of the time. That means her 93% similarity score with Ocasio-Cortez is below that average.

In fact, Mucarsel-Powell votes with Ocasio-Cortez less often than all but six of her 231 Democratic colleagues.

Yes, 93% is a high number in a vacuum. But the number is that high because both are Democrats, and members of the same party tend to vote together. Her voting similarity to other members of “The Squad” — Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — sit at 94%, also below the average.

Mucarsel-Powell did vote in lockstep with Pelosi. Voters inside CD 26 will have to decide whether a House Democrat agreeing with the party’s leader is a shocking development.

Mucarsel-Powell has voted with President Donald Trump less than 5% of the time, according to data from FiveThirtyEight. However, in a district Trump lost by 16 points, that’s right around what would be expected, according to the site’s analysis.

As for the claim about the “Ukrainian warlord,” the CLF has repeatedly revisited this issue in ads dating back to the 2018 cycle. That man, Ihor Kolomoisky, owned businesses that employed Mucarsel-Powell’s husband, Robert Powell. A 2010 court order said it appears Powell “answers” to Kolomoisky, though Powell has said that was never the case.

Mucarsel-Powell also released a new ad of her own Tuesday, which appeared to serve as a closing argument in her bid for a second term.

“Some opportunities only exist in America. As an immigrant from Ecuador, I understand that better than most,” Mucarsel-Powell says at the start of the ad.

“That’s what I’m fighting to protect: the opportunity to have health care that heals, to work or start a business in an economy that works for all of us. And I will never stop fighting to protect those opportunities for you, because when you’ve gone from working in a doughnut shop to Congress, you know what they’re worth.”

Larry Sabato rates the race as a “toss-up” , but the Cook Political Report recently shifted its CD 26 rating from a “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”  FiveThirtyEight, meanwhile, rates the seat as “likely Democratic” and gives Mucarsel-Powell a 79% chance of winning reelection.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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