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Ex-congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell announces bid to unseat Senator Scott

Then U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Andrew Harnik
Then U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — who in 2018 became the first Latina Democrat elected to represent Florida in the U.S. House, only to lose her Miami seat two years later — tells WLRN she is running to unseat Republican Florida Senator Rick Scott next year.

"I continue to firmly believe that the state of Florida is a bright purple state," Mucarsel-Powell said, rejecting suggestions that Florida is now a solid "red" GOP state where any Democrat's hopes of winning a Senate seat look more challenged than ever.

"Everyone that I talk to, they have the same concerns," she said, "whether it's the rise in the cost of housing — the affordability crisis — whether it's safety and security — the issue of gun violence — and seniors that live in this state are extremely concerned with the proposed cuts [by many congressional Republicans] to Medicare and Social Security.

"I mean, it's Rick Scott who actually put out this plan to make these cuts."

While Scott did propose a "Rescue America" spending-reduction plan earlier this year that targeted Medicare and Social Security, he soon backtracked after criticism from even fellow Republicans, and he claimed he never meant it to include those government programs. This summer, however, a group of House Republicans revived the idea of cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Mucarsel-Powell made healthcare her signature issue when she won the primarily South Dade 26th District in 2018. During her term in Congress, she wrote bills to expand Medicare for seniors and COVID-19 patients.

READ MORE: Mucarsel-Powell flips Florida's 26th for Democrats, vows to focus on healthcare

Mucarsel-Powell, who is Ecuadorian-American and is also the first South American-born immigrant elected to Congress, says she is also spurred to run by what she calls Scott's support of "extreme" conservative legislation like Florida's recently enacted ban on all abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

"As a mother of two daughters, I want to make sure I do everything in my power to protect their rights and the rights of every family living in Florida," she said.

Gun control, immigration reform and Jan. 6th

Since losing re-election in 2018 to current Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez, Mucarsel-Powell has remained active on issues such as gun control — drawn to it in no small part because her father was shot and killed in Ecuador, she's now a senior adviser to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

She has also remained involved when it comes to immigration reform.

"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," she said in a campaign statement.

Mucarsel-Powell said she's also running in large part because she feels Scott helped put U.S. democracy in jeopardy on Jan. 6, 2021, when he and almost 150 other Republican members of Congress voted, unsuccessfully, not to certify Electoral College votes confirming President Biden's 2020 election victory over then President Donald Trump — even though there was no evidence of any fraud or other irregularities in the election.

"One of the most important things we need to do here in this country is protect its democratic governance," she said. "It was an insult to Floridians when Rick Scott" voted not to certify the votes.

Mucarsel-Powell is the first well known politico to challenge Scott. While Scott — a former Florida governor who unseated Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in 2018 — does not enjoy particularly robust popularity, Mucarsel-Powell is expected to have an uphill climb, given how deeply Republican Florida has become in recent election cycles. That's more true today even in relatively liberal South Florida, her base.

But Mucarsel-Powell said she's confident the state can still swing like it used to.

"Anything can happen in politics," she said, "and it's a long time until November 2024."

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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