Ex-Florida congresswoman to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Scott in a test for the state’s Democrats

Aug 22, 2023, 4:32 AM | Updated: 7:12 am

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced Tuesday she will seek the nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Scott in 2024, a campaign that will be a test to see if Florida Democrats can fare better during a presidential election in a state that has become increasingly Republican.

Mucarsel-Powell defeated a Republican incumbent to win her only term in Congress in 2018. Two years later, though, she lost to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, relinquishing the seat that has switched parties several times in recent elections.

“We are at a moment in time where our democracy is at stake, our rights are being violated,” she told The Associated Press. “Everything I know about Rick Scott is that he’s always put himself first. He never looks out for Florida families or anybody else.”

Scott served two terms as governor, winning both times with less than 50% of the vote. He was elected to the Senate in 2018, defeating incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by about 10,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast. Scott was picked to lead the GOP’s political efforts for the 2022 Senate races, a campaign that failed to capture a Republican majority.

He has also been discussed as a potential presidential candidate. But he sought reelection as three other Floridians seek the White House: former President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Scott has never run in a presidential election year, when Democrats turn out in higher numbers. That might 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 reelection by more than 16 percentage points and DeSantis by nearly 20.

Scott’s campaign said Mucarsel-Powell is a “radical puppet” of Washington’s Democratic leadership.

“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,” Scott spokeswoman Priscilla Ivasco said in a news release.

Scott is the wealthiest serving senator. He began his business career with two doughnut shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and eventually became CEO of the nation’s largest private hospital chain. He resigned his position at Columbia/HCA before the company paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicaid fraud.

Scott is worth more than $250 million and has shown in each election that he doesn’t mind spending his own money to push himself to victory. He spent more than $63 million of his own money to defeat Nelson in 2018.

Mucarsel-Powell was born in Ecuador and moved to the Miami area when she was 14. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her family as a teenager, working at a doughnut shop to help with expenses. She later worked with nonprofits and in higher education.

Their experience selling doughnuts speaks a lot about their backgrounds, she said.

“That’s the difference, right?. That was his business. I was the minimum wage employee that had just arrived from Ecuador who worked to help make ends meet. I guess that’s everything you need to know about this race,” Mucarsel-Powell said.

Mucarsel-Powell will first have to win a primary. Her main challenger at the moment is Phil Ehr, a retired Navy commander from Pensacola who left the Republican Party in 2017. Ehr has twice unsuccessfully run for the U.S. House seat held by Republican Matt Gaetz in one of the most conservative areas of the state.

Mucarsel-Powell has been encouraged to run by some of the party’s top leaders.

“It’s been very sad for me, and painful, to see how divided this country has become, how polarized this country has become, how people in positions of power — politicians — are trying to demonize fellow Americans just for the fact that they think differently than they do,” she said. “It’s very dangerous.”


For more AP coverage of the 2024 elections: https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024

United States News

Associated Press

Insider Q&A: Trust and safety exec talks about AI and content moderation

Alex Popken was a longtime trust and safety executive at Twitter focusing on content moderation before leaving in 2023. She was the first employee there dedicated to moderating Twitter’s advertising business when she started in 2013. Now, she’s vice president of trust and safety at WebPurify, a content moderation service provider that works with businesses […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident

BALTIMORE (AP) — April Hurley’s attacker entered her apartment after identifying himself as the building maintenance man — a job he should never have obtained, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that accuses the property owner and management company of engaging in negligent hiring practices. Once inside the apartment, Jason Billingsley tortured Hurley and her […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden will send Ukraine air defense weapons, artillery once Senate approves, Zelenskyy says

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry once the Senate approves a massive national security aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine. Zelensky said in a posting on X that Biden also assured him that a coming package of […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

The fatal shooting of an Ohio officer during a training exercise being probed as a possible homicide

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The fatal shooting of an Ohio officer during a training exercise at a state corrections department facility earlier this month is being investigated as a possible reckless homicide, according to a published report. The Columbus Dispatch said the information is included in a heavily redacted 18-page report it received from the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

No charges yet in weekend crash that killed 2 siblings at Michigan birthday party

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Investigators need more time to collect information before charges can be filed in the deaths of two young siblings who were killed by a suspected drunken driver at a child’s weekend birthday party, a Michigan prosecutor said Monday. “We expect to make a charging decision” on Tuesday, Monroe County prosecutor […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Review of UN agency helping Palestinian refugees found Israel did not express concern about staff

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An independent review of the neutrality of the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees found that Israel never expressed concern about anyone on the staff lists it has received annually since 2011. The review was carried out after Israel alleged that a dozen employees of the agency known as UNRWA had participated […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Ex-Florida congresswoman to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Scott in a test for the state’s Democrats