Debbie Mucarsel-Powell launches challenge against Rick Scott for U.S. Senate
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Image via Mucarsel-Powell campaign.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
National Democrats worked over months to recruit the Miami candidate into the race.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has announced she is looking to challenge U.S. Sen. Rick Scott for his seat in the Senate.

The Miami Democrat ended months of speculation as she launched her first statewide campaign.

“My mother brought me to this country so we could live in a nation with opportunities for all and where it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has a chance to make it,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian American who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager.

Mucarsel-Powell unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2018, a couple of years before being defeated by Miami-Dade Mayor and now-U. S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Republican. But the fact she won her seat the same year Scott narrowly won his seat in the Senate made her a sought-after candidate.

Mucarsel-Powell touted her achievements over her House tenure and in her South Florida community before her election.

“I worked in my community for more than 20 years, expanding access to economic growth and affordable health care, and in Congress, I wrote the bill to expand Medicare Advantage coverage for our seniors,” she said.

The Democrat said the stakes will be higher in many ways as she aims to unseat Scott four years after he voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Republican Donald Trump.

“Now, democracy is at stake,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “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. It will take all of us working together to defeat him, but that’s when we’re at our best, and everywhere I go I can feel this desire for change.”

As the first South American immigrant ever elected to Congress, Democrats hope to regain some ground lost to Republicans within South Florida’s Hispanic community. A news release touting her announcement notes Biden tapped Mucarsel-Powell as a special adviser for the 2022 Summit of the Americas. During her time in Congress, she consistently spoke out against the communist government in Cuba and dictatorships throughout Latin America.

A launch video stresses a compelling biography.

“I’m an immigrant, a Latina, a mother,” Mucarsel-Powell says in the video. “And we made history together when I became the first South American immigrant ever elected to Congress. I’ve already fought guys like Rick Scott and beat them. I wrote the bill to expand Medicare, not take it away because I know my mom and so many others depend on it.”

The candidate’s father, Guido Mucarsel Yunes, died in Ecuador, shot outside his home. Mucarsel-Powell has been a vocal voice against gun violence, and after her time in Congress joined Giffords as a senior adviser.

“I lost my own father to gun violence. That’s why l fight every day to keep our children and our communities safe,” she said. “And I’m not afraid to take on Rick Scott or anyone that doesn’t put Florida first.”

She came out swinging against the incumbent’s record, asserting the Senator will undo Medicare and Social Security (a position Scott notably denied holding). The Democrat alleges that the incumbent’s positions don’t align with Florida’s values.

“He’d strip away women’s rights with a national abortion ban. He cuts taxes for himself, but he’d raise them on you,” Mucarsel-Powell says of Scott in the launch video. “He wrote the plan that could take away the Social Security and Medicare you worked and paid for. And he’s gotten tens of millions of dollars richer while so-called ‘serving’ the people.”

Scott’s campaign for its part has brushed off a potential Mucarsel-Powell candidacy.

“The only place in South Florida where this is huge news is the Mucarsel-Powell household,” longtime Scott aide Chris Hartline posted on X after news broke. “Everyone else in South Florida is asking the same question: ‘who?'”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee slammed Mucarsel-Powell’s entry to the race.

“Socialist Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost her Congressional seat after questions were raised about why a warlord accused of bribery, embezzlement, and contract killings paid her family nearly $700,000,” said NRSC Spokesman Philip Letsou, a reference to ties between Mucarsel-Powell’s husband and a Ukrainian oligarch. “She still hasn’t answered those questions, and Floridians will reject her again.”

Scott’s campaign dismissed the challenger as a left-wing non-threat.

“We’d like to welcome yet another failed congressional candidate to the crowded Democrat primary,”  said Scott Communications Director Priscilla Ivasco. “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.”

Mucarsel-Powell enters an existing Democratic field, where former congressional candidate Phil Ehr has already launched a campaign, and former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has a campaign account open. But she jumped into the race a day after state House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell announced she would sit out the federal race and seek re-election to the state Legislature.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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