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Sen. Rick Scott picks up a Democratic challenger for 2024

Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced Tuesday that she’s taking on the incumbent Republican in what’s considered an uphill climb for Democrats.
Rick Scott during a news conference on Capitol Hill
Rick Scott during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on Dec. 20, 2022. Mariam Zuhaib / AP file

Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced Tuesday she will challenge Republican Sen. Rick Scott, a former two-term Florida governor viewed as the favorite in 2024.

Mucarsel-Powell, who came to the U.S. at age 14 from Ecuador, has long been on a short list of potential Democratic candidates. In recent weeks, a number of state and national Democratic leaders have coalesced around her. Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, who was also rumored to be considering a run against Scott, said in an interview Monday that she will remain in the Legislature.

Mucarsel-Powell has talked to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — which conducted a poll on her behalf — and says she anticipates having enough support to mount a serious campaign, even as national Democrats must defend seats in Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Montana and Arizona. 

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., speaks at a press conference in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 17, 2020.
Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is challenging Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., in 2024.Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP file

“Rick Scott is trying to raise taxes on our families. He wrote a plan to end Social Security and Medicare Advantage coverage for our seniors,” Mucarsel-Powell said in the interview.

Scott pitched the plan, which he dubbed the “Rescue America” plan, during the 2022 midterms as he chaired the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

The plan included a proposal to sunset all federal legislation after five years, including entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. It also included language that “all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game.” He later revised the proposal, but it is expected to be a prime part of Democratic attacks against him. 

In May, Scott said in an interview that he welcomed Democrats’ trying to use the plan against him.

I will fight over my ideas any day,” Scott said at the time, adding that President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “all lied about it. I was never going to cut any programs.”

Democrats were slow to coalesce around a candidate this cycle, reflecting the uphill climb in defeating Scott, who has never lost a statewide race. Scott is also one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with the ability to self-finance his campaign, although he has said he will not need to do so in this election. 

While a number of long-shot Democrats have jumped into the race, Mucarsel-Powell is not expected to have serious competition for the nomination at this point. 

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

Nationally, Florida has become known for its Republican bent, which is likely to affect national Democrats’ view of the race and its winnability. 

The idea that Florida is turning red is bolstered by the fact that Republicans hold a roughly 500,000-person voter registration advantage after decades of Democrats’ outnumbering the GOP in the state. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis won the state by nearly 20 percentage points in an election cycle in which national Democratic organizations spend just $2 million in the state. In contrast, Democrats spent nearly $60 million during the 2018 midterms.

Mucarsel-Powell represented a Miami-based congressional seat for one term before she was defeated in 2020 by Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez.

She was the first South American-born immigrant to serve in Congress, and her biography will play a big role in her message to voters.

“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,” she said. “Everyone has a chance to make it.”