Lebanese American Debbie Mucarsel-Powell enters longshot Florida US senate race
A former Democratic congresswoman from Florida has announced that she will be challenging US Senator Rick Scott in 2024.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who grew up in Ecuador and whose father, Guido Mucarsel Yunes, was of Lebanese heritage, would be a long-shot running against a wealthy incumbent in this Republican-trending state.
However, her experience and background, importantly her native fluency in Spanish in a heavily Spanish-speaking state, could give her an advantage in a race that would be an uphill battle for her.
"I don’t make any assumptions or underestimate how difficult it is going to be," Mucarsel-Powell said, according to a report in Politico, following her announcement that she would run earlier this month. "This is a divided country. It’s a divided state. But what I have realized, what I have learned is that when you listen to Floridians across the state and you put their interests first, no amount of money is going to stop them from sending the right person to serve them."
"Florida is a very hard state for Democrats. If you look at the voter registration trends, the Republicans have really been building up their edge," J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, tells The New Arab.
However, he describes Mucarsel-Powell as a decent candidate that stands a chance if things line up for her in this race.
"You can't catch a wave without a surfboard. It's sometimes good to run a decent candidate if things break your way," he says.
Mucarsel-Powell's senate race could depend on the strength of Joe Biden's presidential campaign in Florida, with the results of these races often going hand in hand. If Biden, who lost Florida to Trump by only three percentage points in 2020, manages to take Florida, then he could take the Democratic senate candidate with him.
Scott, though highly favoured to win this race, with his incumbent status and his willingness to fund his own campaigns, has vulnerabilities. So far, he has only won his races by narrow margins. Moreover, he has never run for office during a presidential race. This is in addition to not being a native Spanish speaker.
"Scott doesn't have a personal following or a lot of personal loyalty," Greg Koger, professor of political science at the University of Miami, tells TNA. Mucarsel-Powell, on the other hand, whom he has met on campus, has built up a following, he says.
"I think there's potential for a [Democratic] trend," he says. "With the [Governor Ron] DeSantis agenda over the past three years, Florida is closing its window for access to abortion. That's not where the average Floridian is. The next races will show how Floridians feel about social issues."
To reach voters with their messaging, he says the Democrats need to invest more in their races in Florida, which has been waning in recent years as the state has been trending red.
If Mucarsel-Powell manages an upset win against Scott in 2024, this would be the second major surprise victory for a Democrat in Florida in recent elections. The last one took place in May when Donna Deegan (nee Hazouri), also a Lebanese American woman, won the Jacksonville mayoral race.