TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Democratic Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced Tuesday that she will be running for the nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Scott in 2024, a presidential election in a state that is becoming increasingly Republican is.
Mucarsel-Powell beat a Republican incumbent and won her only term in Congress in 2018 before losing to Carlos Gimenez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County in a seat that has switched parties several times in recent elections.
“We are in a moment where our democracy is at stake and our rights are being violated,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “All I know about Rick Scott is that he always put himself first. He never takes care of families in Florida or anyone else.”
Scott served two terms as governor, winning both times by less than 50% of the vote. He was elected to the Senate in 2018, beating incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by about 10,000 votes out of more than 8 million votes cast. Scott was chosen to do this Lead the GOP’s political efforts for the 2022 Senate electiona campaign that failed to garner a Republican majority.
He has also been discussed as a potential presidential candidate. But he was seeking reelection, while three other Florida residents are seeking the White House: former President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
But Scott has never run in a presidential election year in which Democrats turned out in greater numbers. That may not be enough in a state where Republicans have taken a sizable lead in voter registration after decades of Democratic dominance. In 2022, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio won re-election by more than 16 percentage points and DeSantis by almost 20 percentage points.
Scott is now the richest US Senator currently in office. He began his business career at two donut shops in Kansas City, Missouri, eventually becoming CEO of the country’s largest private chain of hospitals. He left his position at Columbia/HCA before the company paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicaid fraud.
Worth more than $250 million, Scott has shown in every election that he doesn’t mind spending his own fortune to edge him out to victory. He spent more than $63 million of his fortune beating Nelson in 2018.
Mucarsel-Powell was born in Ecuador and moved to the Miami area when he was 14. As a teenager, she lived with her family in a one-bedroom apartment and worked at a donut shop to help with expenses before later working in non-profit organizations and in higher education.
Her experience selling donuts says a lot about her background, she said.
“That’s the difference, isn’t it?” That was his business. I was the minimum wage worker just arrived from Ecuador, working to make ends meet. I think that’s all you need to know about his race,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
Mucarsel-Powell must first win a primary. Her biggest challenger right now is Phil Ehr, a retired naval commander from Pensacola who left the Republican Party in 2017. Ehr has twice run unsuccessfully for Republican Matt Gaetz’s seat in the US House of Representatives in one of the state’s most conservative areas.
Mucarsel-Powell was encouraged to run by some top party leaders.
“It has been very sad and painful for me to see how divided this country has become, how polarized it has become, how people in positions of power – politicians – are trying to demonize their fellow Americans just because they think differently than they do.” , she said. “It’s very dangerous.”