© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

Nikki Fried is trying to reinvigorate Democrats to take on Rick Scott for US Senate

Nikki Fried
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced she's running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Rick Scott. Now, Democratic organizers are trying to make sure she has a better chance at winning than they did in the last Senate race.

Democrat Val Demings got trounced by Republican Marco Rubio in last year's U.S. Senate contest, and Democrats are now outnumbered for the first time in the state.

So new party head Nikki Fried said she is reworking the structure of the party.

"Democrats are organizing early. We're organizing now. We are working on reinvesting in the party structure," Fried said during a news conference. "We're reinvesting in our base, reinvesting and building our bench. That is how we're doing this differently.

"We're going to be knocking on doors, we're going to make sure that the message is concise, that we are organized, and that we're coalescing behind a candidate early for the U.S. Senate race."

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell speaking at a podium with the American flag behind her
Jacquelyn Martin
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., speaks during a news conference about COVID-19, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell announced Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, 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 is increasingly Republican.

Fried said the party will organize 2,000 volunteers to campaign in every county in the state.

Mucarsel-Powell is the odds-on favorite to become the Democratic nominee. She 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.

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.

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.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.