Debbie Mucarsel-Powell volunteered for John Kerry’s Florida campaign and hosted house parties to rally support for Barack Obama. In 2016, she became a candidate herself, losing a bid to oust a Republican state senator.
That the Democrat is back in the running — this time challenging a Republican member of the U.S. House — comes as little surprise to those who know her.
“When I finally decided to run for Congress, my friends were like, ‘We were waiting for you to finally do something like this,’ “ she said in an interview in her campaign office as volunteers manned the phones. “I’ve always want to get involved.”
A native of Ecuador, who moved to South Florida in 1996, Mucarsel-Powell, 47, has done fundraising for community groups, including the Zoo Miami Foundation and the Coral Restoration Foundation. She also worked at Florida International University, where she raised money for healthcare programs. Politics has long been a passion.
“People think I’m some random woman Democrat who decided to run in the ‘Year of the Woman,’ “ Mucarsel-Powell said, referring to the record number of women running for office in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. “But I’ve been doing this work for 20 years.”
Though Mucarsel-Powell is not widely known, Democrats were pleased with her decision to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, in one of the districts that Democrats are hoping to flip. She’s picked up support from EMILY’s List, which backs pro-choice candidates, along with an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, who included her in a list of candidates his office says are in “close races in which his support would make a meaningful difference.”
Though Curbelo has outraised her, she’s been aggressive: She and her Democratic allies since mid-September have been up repeatedly with bilingual television and radio advertising. The push has the ability to change the momentum in the race, with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report changing the rating on the race from leaning Republican to a toss-up.
Unlike the other two Democrats looking to unseat Republicans from largely Hispanic Miami districts, Mucarsel-Powell is a native Spanish speaker. At a recent rally in support of union workers at the airport, she opened in Spanish, but closed in English.
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